July 13, 2009


We have had enough of con artists: In art as in politics, people have begun to see through the charade to the emptiness that lies beneath (Janet Daley, 11 Jul 2009, Daily Telegraph)

Over in Trafalgar Square, the growing disgust that is now enveloping Antony Gormley's inflated absurdity of an "artwork" has an air of resigned contempt. The relentless parade of exhibitionists who have been licensed to disport themselves like talentless buskers in one of Britain's most magnificent commemorative spaces, is the least of it. The accompanying panoply of building site structures, wire fencing and safety netting, security and broadcasting paraphernalia has taken over roughly a quarter of the square that was Charles Barry's memorial to a great moment in this nation's history of defying foreign tyranny. And what is this ugly travelling circus celebrating? The logically nonsensical idea that there is no distinction between art and life: a proposition which, were it actually believed, would put an end to the possibility of making art at all. (If everything is art, then nothing is.)

For many who have been simply bemused or faintly exasperated by the defiant narcissistic vacuity of contemporary art, the Gormley project, with its appropriately inane title, One and Other, is a step too far. It is the defiling of a civic space that belongs to the country – which stands for something which many people suddenly feel, perhaps to their surprise, should be treated with dignity and respect. It is not fanciful to suggest that across the minds of many of those onlookers who have hurled sarcastic epithets at the occupants of the fourth plinth, may be running the thought: what sort of country have we become that we allow our national monuments to be treated in this way? Does such an absence of historical pride and dignity possibly bear some connection to the collapse of national self-belief? And a further corollary: is it any wonder that we have so much difficulty persuading the children of immigrants that they should feel proud to be British?

...but that there are extraordinarily few artists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 13, 2009 12:24 PM
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