I love the British Museum, and go there a lot (it’s a five minute walk from work, a fine lunchtime diversion). But it does annoy me too. They closed the Japanese gallery a couple of months back, in favour of some more offices. I was told that it had just moved downstairs into a new permanent space, but now that’s gone too. There are about ten 20th Century Japanese prints in a corridor by the Korean section, but that’s your lot, and those are comprehensively overshadowed by four tremendous Korean monochrome paintings preceeding them. A strikingly feeble show. There’s no space now even for what was my favourite little exhibit anywhere, the pair of wall cases of inro, netsuke and sword parts that was where there are now only offices.

Frankly, it’s a bit shaky except on that accepted central narrative of the development of Western civilisation: Egypt, Greece, Rome. It’s a familiar story, and they don’t challenge or question it. Nothing to suggest how much Egypt got from elsewhere in Africa, nothing even to emphasise that Egypt is African, not proto-European. What they can fit in of their great African holdings (there’s as strong a case for returning some magnificent Benin bronzes as the ‘Elgin marbles’) is shoved in a backwater basement. The pre-Columbian American stuff is sketchy and without a well defined section of its own. China shares a room with India (the two most populous countries in the world, and arguably those with the lengthiest civilised histories), and the Korean gallery is often closed.

And there is also a difference on the level of individual exhibits in how they treat these more remote territories. We wouldn’t get 20th Century Greek paintings shown in the British Museum: the borderline between art and anthropology can hardly be drawn, but they are treating Japan and Greece very differently in this regard. Similarly, you’ll see some tremendous African carvings that are just labelled as ‘Nigeria, 1980s’ or some such – you’d never see an Italian sculpture just credited like that.

I guess the statistics of visitors mostly support the vastly greater reverence given to the Big Three, but that’s a circular argument, to an extent. The huge success of the RA’s blockbuster Aztecs show contrasts with the one room for Aztec artefacts in the BM. And might a good samurai show, well promoted, not do well? They have some great armour, swords, bows and the like in their storerooms. I wish they could regard these other areas with as much respect and interest as that offered to those so very familiar Western cultural ancestors.

The Brown Wedge