I attended a debate at the Mall Galleries Threadneedle Prize this evening. Where is British art heading? Are the YBAs really dead? Who or what is going to replace them? Attending were leading Brit artist Bob and Roberta Smith, writer and broadcaster Brian Sewell and realist painter and Threadneedle selector Jock McFadyen for a lively and topical debate during The Threadneedle Prize exhibition. Arts columnist Karen Wright chaired the panel.
Brian opened with the statement:”Twenty years or so ago I attended a debate like this and I said that British art was more or less dead. Now there are two things that happen when something dies. First it pisses itself, and second it shits itself. Well the YBA (Young British Artists) are the ensuing piss and shit from the rotting corpse of British art and its time for change.”
Well now there is an opening (rubbing hands together).
As the debate/battle went on however I found that the points drifted somewhat and stayed very much in the present. Some lamenting the dreadful current state of the teaching standards in our art colleges, others blaming Messers Saatchi and Serota for all the worlds ills. This was further hampered somewhat by Jock McFadyen who insisted that the YBA’s did not exist at all which led nowhere. Brian broadsided his vast dictionary across Jocks bows in reprise. (The crowd jeered!)
There was also an undertow from some members of the audience promoting the HATE of contemporary art no matter what. Culminating in one or two pointless, personal and spiteful comments directed at Bob Smith (who seemed a fine chap to me). They at the same time viewing Brain as an artistic messiah. Brian seemed uncomfortable with his new promotion to ‘the right hand of the father’ and shifted in his chair.
No final decision was made on the future of our art though I did rather enjoy it all the same. Lots of long words with a touch of the Hogarthian cock pit!