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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Winning artist slams Tate director
Stuart Pearson Wright with The Six Presidents of the Royal Academy
Pearson Wright with his award winning portrait
Stuart Pearson Wright, the winner of the 21st BP Portrait Award 2001, has attacked Tate Gallery director Sir Nicholas Serota.

The 25-year-old artist won 25,000 and, at the Trustee's discretion, a commission of 3,000 to paint a portrait for the Gallery's contemporary collection.

Phil Hale's Source X
Phil Hale won second prize for his self-portrait
His winning portrait, The Six Presidents of the British Academy, shows the six past and current presidents of the British Academy.

The six - Sir Tony Wrigley, Lord Quirk, Sir Anthony Kenny, Sir Kenneth Dover, Sir Keith Thomas and the Rev Prof Owen Chadwick - are shown along with a dead chicken, a reminder of their mortality.

But before receiving his award Pearson Wright, who is considered one of the country's finest portraitists, launched an attack on the director of the Tate Gallery, Sir Nicholas Serota, for failing to support figurative artists.


In an interview, published in The Daily Telegraph, Pearson Wright said Sir Nicholas should be sacked for championing conceptual art, which he branded as "pretty dull".

"It is possible that they might induce some interesting thoughts but they are not going to move anybody to tears like a Beethoven symphony or a beautiful painting," he said.

Stuart Pearson Wright with Jerry Hall
Pearson Wright received his award from model Jerry Hall
Pearson Wright added that traditional painters, such as himself, are forced to show on the fringes of the art world.

The Tate is a publicly funded organisation, which runs Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London but also galleries in Liverpool and St Ives.

It also runs the Turner Prize, one of the art world's most prestigious awards.

Previous Turner Prize winners include conceptual artist Damien Hirst, photographer Wolfgang Tillmans and sculptor Rachel Whiteread.


Pearson Wright deplores the lack of recantation for portraitists and traditional painters.

"I am going to do all I can to change this and sacking Serota would be a step in the right direction," he said.

The attack comes just weeks after playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, criticised the Young British Artist movement for producing work he said was artless, self-indulgent and without spiritual meaning.

Brendan Kelly's award-winning Nude in a Nightclub
Brendan Kelly's award-winning Nude in a Nightclub
Second prize in the BP portrait award went jointly to Phil Hale, for his self-portrait Source X, and Brendan Kelly, for Nude in a Nightclub.

The pair received 4,000 each, and no third prize was made.

Phil Hale is based in London and won third prize in last year's BP Portrait Award.

Brighton-based Brendan Kelly studied at Camberwell School of Art and the Slade School of Art before undertaking a sculpture scholarship in Athens.

Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said of the BP Portrait Award: "Three outstanding and ambitious works have won prizes and we are particularly pleased that this year's winner, most unusually, is a commissioned portrait."

Pearson Wright's portrait was a formal commission by the Royal Academy to show the incumbent president and five living, former presidents.

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