Monday, November 28, 2011

Quite useless

You know, I rather like Brian Sewell. Even when he’s talking complete bollocks, it’s good value, entertaining, provocative bollocks. As in this interview in yesterday’s Observer, to plug his autobiography, which doesn’t mention his friend and mentor Anthony Blunt, but does retell the story about masturbating for the delectation of Salvador Dali. Asked to name the worst piece of art he’s ever seen, he says:
Well, there’s so much of it. It’s when the definition of art runs out and there is still stuff being produced. When Tracey Emin makes a neon sign, that’s not the “worst art”, it just isn’t art. When Anish Kapoor puts some wonky Meccano structure up at the expense of £16m for the Olympics, that’s a joke, that isn’t art.
Which is just daft. There may be perfectly sound criticisms to be made of Emin or Kapoor (although I quite like the look of the Meccano thingy, I suspect I’m pretty much alone) but to say they’re not art is just lazy, and a charge that’s been laid against pretty much every artistic movement since the invention of paint. What Sewell means is that they’ve hopped over some unspecified barrier beyond which he can’t or won’t follow, which says far more about his own inadequacies as a critic than about their abilities as artists. To blame them for his inertia is petulant in the extreme.

But then he gets something utterly right:
I’m often accused by people who should know better of trying to be academically clever. To that the answer is that I think I am academically clever and I’m not trying. 
It does appear that after all these years Sewell has given up attempting to be an art critic and finally discovered, at the age of 80, his proper vocation – that of Being Sewell.

PS: If you want to see the sort of art that Brian does like, check out Ugly Renaissance Babies.


Annie said...

I find him a bit depressing as an art critic. All that knowledge & learning to impart, & he just moans and carps and bitches. Not even in a very witty or entertaining way.

Give me Andrew Graham Dixon (please) any day.

Martin said...

One of his most alarming statements, when referring to conceptual art, was, "'s whatever you want it to be." Surely, it's about what the artist wants it to be?

I'm with Annie. Andrew Graham Dixon any day.

Lucy P said...

I'll fight both of you for Graham-Dixon....

I do enjoy the Sewell, though, the obnoxious old goat.

Charles Edward Frith said...

I wonder if Blunt whispered in Sewell's ears the content of the letters our Reptilian Royals order be retrieved from Kronberg Castle after the war.

Tim F said...

But that's my point, Annie and Martin. He's a busted flush as a real critic, but as a walking work of art – somewhere between Oscar Wilde and John McCririck – he's unbeatable. Lucy P gets it.

Charles: I understand that the Windsors and their acolytes were fully aware of Blunts Kremlin-related misdeeds well before MI5 worked it out.

Garth said...

When Tracey Emin makes a neon sign, that’s not the “worst art”, it just isn’t art.
I've changed my mind - Sewell is legend.