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 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 08:36 GMT
Are London art audiences more sophisticated?
Talking Point: Art
People in the north of England are not sophisticated enough to appreciate major works of art, it has been claimed.

London-based art critic Brian Sewell says a new exhibition by post-war artists, due to open on Tyneside, should be on display in the capital.

"By the very nature of the audience in London it is exposed to very much more art and culture and is therefore more sophisticated. There is no doubt about it."

But Paul Collard, chairman of Northern Arts and a member of the Arts Council, said northern audiences were just as sophisticated as those in London.

"Investment in cultural facilities in the regions has stimulated an extraordinary renaissance in regional capitals like Newcastle," he said.

Are art audiences more sophisticated in London? Should the exhibition have opened in London instead?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I miss out on a lot of great exhibitions because I'm not prepared to put up with the horrors of London to visit crowded galleries. The more art shown outside the capital the better.
Fiona , Nottingham

Having worked in art galleries in the US and Britain, I do not find Mr Sewell's comments shocking. His remarks reflect his petty regionalism and the pretentious snobbery that infests the art industry and its hangers on. I think Mr Sewell would be better off taking time listening to what other Londoners think before taking it upon himself to disparage a large part of the country.
Steve Cohen, USA

Brian Sewell does not speak for London

Mark, UK
Brian Sewell does not speak for London. If we all ignore him, he may go away. What kind of job is it that means you have to comment on other people's work rather than actually producing something of worth to the whole on the UK?
Mark, UK

I suspect Brian Sewell is worried that the northerners' reputation for straight talking will expose the emperor's new clothes when they come to review some of rubbish on display and posing as art. It has become very easy to tell people they are not sophisticated enough to appreciate art and the gullible southerners will accept this but not the pragmatic northerners.
Trevor Vaughan, UK

While individuals such as Mr Sewell spout such nonsense, parity in arts and culture will never be achieved. His argument is entirely circular - people in London appreciate art because they have access to art and therefore all the art should be in London. How is the north (and of course the oft-forgotten Midlands) ever going to achieve Mr Sewell's level of enlightenment in everything is kept firmly in his own back yard?
Alick, UK

To Alick, Heaven forbid I ever get Mr Sewell's "level of enlightenment" - I never want to be the level of snob he seems to be!
Helen S, UK

It depends on what the person wants to absorb.

Mel, London
ABSOLUTE rubbish. I have lived in the north, I live in London and I have lived in Venice. Does that enhance my appreciation of art and architecture or does my time in the north depreciate it? Does the fact that I was studying drama in the north give me bonus points though? Does the fact that I was not born in the North detract from my argument?

I have constantly attended the theatre, galleries and concerts no matter where I live and in my frank opinion it depends on what the person wants to absorb. I like Brian Sewell for the very fact that he is not afraid to speak his mind; however on this one I do have to say he is being outrageously narrow minded. How many northern artists, playwrights and musicians do we have to thank this country for? Get a grip Mr Sewell. You are smarter than that.
Mel, London

Us southerners are culturally spoilt for choice, and that's the way I like it. I honestly believe that people up north are far more partisan, more removed from the world and far less cosmopolitan. Therefore the south is more sophisticated. As the furore over the exhibition proves. If the north was equally sophisticated then this news story would never have emerged.
Alex White, UK

It is disappointing to hear Sewell's comments, particularly when he is supposed to be held in such high regard by the art world. It's about time the northern regions of the country had exactly the same opportunities and investment into the arts as London has enjoyed over the years.

Does Mr Sewell not realise how much of London's art scene is subsidised by travelling northern audiences? Maybe he should take the time to visit the north more often to see what is really going on in Britain's art world instead of refusing to acknowledge that London is not the centre of the universe.
Heather Woolham, U.K North West

This is typical of the upper class snobbery associated with art that completely turns people off. How can someone in the north be any less appreciative of art just because they do not live in London? Had this kind of comment been made about an ethnic minority this person would be on the front pages of every newspaper. Why shouldn't an art exhibition be held outside of the capital? His comment that it was unreasonable for someone to travel outside of London is pathetic.
Tom O'D, UK

I have no respect for someone like that. What a fool

Jimmy, London
The comments made by Mr Sewell are unbelievable. I live in London, and most of us here are fed up with loud-mouthed bigots like him talking complete and utter nonsense. Is it any wonder most of the rest of the country are against London holding the Olympics when an idiot like him lives in the town?

If I were to ever meet this Mr Sewell I would be very tempted to point out that Londoners can do without thick people such as him roaming round making silly, outdated comments. I have no respect for someone like that. What a fool.
Jimmy, London, UK

I may not know much about art, but I do know that Brian Sewell is a pompous, self-important little prig who considers his taste to be superior to everybody else's.
Paul, England

This is just typical of the elitist attitude of most people who live in London, who believe that anything of any value can only be appreciated in London. The very fact that Mr Sewell felt the need to make this comment probably means he is becoming concerned that the English regions are beginning to catch up with London, which obviously diminishes London's importance. Not that London has ever been deemed to be important by anyone other than those fools who choose to live there.
Darren Piper, England

I don't think the London audience is any more sophisticated than the rest of the country in terms of its appreciation of art. Opening this exhibition in Newcastle is a great idea because it will generate new interest in art in the area, and perhaps remind critics that there is more to the UK than the city of London. Comments like Mr Sewell's can only further alienate people from the arts and increase the perception many people have, that art is inaccessible to them.
Emma, UK (north)

Mr Sewell's ill-informed bigotry does little to convince me that his opinions on art are worthwhile. That he resorts to this sort of cheap PR suggests that people in London have stopped listening to him already...
John Peat, NORTHERN England

The trouble with Brian's comments is most of us are supremely indifferent to his opinion

Renee Gillan, Scotland
Well done Brian Sewell, you have guaranteed the success of this exhibition! All of us in the north will be desperate to see this exhibition just to see if we really are as unsophisticated as you think we are. Frankly I don't really care what you think. I like some artists, I loathe some artists - that's the nature of art its very subjective.

The trouble with Brian's comments is most of us are supremely indifferent to his opinion. Fortunately I do not live in London so do not really know who he is, other some rather tiresome critic. Ah me, what it is to part of the great unwashed unsophisticated north - we are allowed to go along to exhibits and just look at them without trying to make clever remarks, how enjoyable.
Renee Gillan, Scotland

If Brian Sewell would be prepared to open his mind to the concept of art outside of London, he would be pleasantly surprised. After all for the "sophisticated" Londoner, a 280 mile trip (one hour on the plane from Heathrow) to see such an important exhibition should be of no consequence. His comments reek of a desperation to retain the "class" divide between north and south that only really exists in the minds of people like Mr Sewell.
Simon Neave, Northern England

It matters not whether London audiences are more sophisticated. What does matter is that art in all its forms is disseminated to as wide an audience as possible. It is not the preserve of London, nor even of the likes of Sewell. His comments are ignorant, insulting, and show that his position as an art critic is, at best, tenuous.
Dave, UK

Art "critics" sophisticated? Certainly, in the real meaning of the word - employing sophistry - that is, using over- elaborate complication and deceit with intent to confuse.
AJB, England

The UK does not need to have an art supermarket in London

Phil, UK
It is important for Londoners and the country as a whole to be able to see new exhibitions in different surroundings and towns. The UK does not need to have an art supermarket in London where the newest exhibits are always available. This would make extraordinary works of art as accessible as any other day to day item.
Phil, UK

I'm sure Damien Hirst would whole-heartedly agree with those comments, having been brought up and educated in Leeds. The lack of sophistication as a result of enduring his formative years up north has clearly had such a detrimental effect on his talent. I wonder if Mr Sewell has ever ventured outside of the M25?
Anonymous, UK

Mr Sewell says "By the very nature of the audience in London it is exposed to very much more art and culture and is therefore more sophisticated". Surely, then, we poor uncultured northerners cannot be expected to become more sophisticated if we are denied the opportunity to see works of art? Anyway, I'm sure Mr Sewell can afford the travel expenses.
Barbara Gribbon, Scotland

See also:

14 Jan 03 | England
11 Jul 02 | England
11 Jul 02 | Arts
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