Today I received an interesting invitation via Twitter. “Wld u like to comment for ES in defence/Grayson Perry re Sewell piece?” The message was from Josh Neicho who is the Letters Editor of the Evening Standard. There was a link to an Evening Standard review of the current Royal Academy Summer Exhibition by the art critic Brian Sewell. Neicho presumably found my Twitter address as a result of my post about Grayson Perry’s tapestries.
Sewell’s review was scathing to say the least!
“In the Academy’s magazine, Norman Ackroyd, the co-ordinator (whatever that may mean) and hangman of the exhibition, asserts that a lot of the work submitted “was very challenging, powerful and strong”, but if that is so, then challenge, power and strength were the selectors’ criteria for rejection, for nothing with these characteristics is to be found on the walls.”
“[Humphrey Ocean] is also of the opinion that “the Summer Exhibition throws its spectators right in at the deep end”. Really? Surely it has no deep end but is entirely shallow, with a soft muddy bottom to mire the unfortunate wader.”
I’ve always liked Sewell prose, if not his arrogant attitude on occasion. However, the thought of crossing swords with someone who describes the light of London as “glaucous” (it means ‘of a pale greyish or bluish green’ – I had to look it up!) does not fill me with glee. The main reason I declined the invitation, though, was simply that I had not seen the tapestries unlike Sewell so didn’t feel able to make a judgement.
So what did Mr Sewell think of Grayson’s work?
“In the past I have occasionally discussed the 10 best exhibits and ignored the other 1,200 or so; this year, as there are no best, I thought to choose the 10 worst, but in so universally dismal a gathering, even that has proved impossible and I have only three to offer, all in their own ways so ghastly that I must award them Equal First. They are Lorry Art, by Rose Wylie, a daub worthy of a child of four; Sudden Rain in Mombasa, by Mohammed Abdullah Ariba Khan, who has the impertinence to ask £1,400 for a seascape (in an ornate sham gold frame) of the kind to be expected in a Margate B&B; and The Vanity of Small Differences, Perry’s six tapestries in hideous homage to Hogarth, visually raucous and machine-made offences to all for whom the word tapestry conjures the glories of Mortlake and Brussels.”
So he didn’t like them then. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing them when the Management and I head down to London in early August to see the exhibition.