BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Entertainment: Arts
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 18:17 GMT
Gallery boss blasts concept art
Ivan Massow says artists like Damien Hirst are patronising
Massow says artists like Damien Hirst are patronising
The chairman of one of the UK's most respected contemporary art galleries has attacked modern concept art as "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat".

Ivan Massow, chairman of London's Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), said the UK arts scene, which once led the world, was in danger of being totally irrelevant.

Mr Massow: Can no longer ignore a nagging voice in his head
Mr Massow: Can no longer ignore a "nagging voice"
Artists like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst have become some of the most famous living artists in the country through a shocking and unconventional approach.

But concept art is all hype and no substance, said Mr Massow, a millionaire businessman who was once in the race to be Conservative candidate for Mayor of London before defecting to Labour.

"It is the product of over-indulged, middle class (barely concealed behind mockney accents), bloated egos who patronise real people with fake understanding," he wrote in the New Statesman magazine.

Mr Massow, 34, said concept art had become the UK's official art, put in its position by the country's arts elite who were now too proud to criticise it.

Tracey Emin: Made her name with an unmade bed
Tracey Emin: Made her name with an unmade bed
He admitted his gallery had helped keep concept art in its elevated position, but said he could no longer ignore the nagging voice in his head.

Traditional artists needed reassurance that they did not have to reinvent themselves as "creators of piles of crap" to get attention, he said.

Tracey Emin, who found fame with her exhibition of a stained, unmade bed, could not think her way out of a paper bag, Mr Massow said.

This year's controversial Turner Prize, the most high-profile UK art award of the year, was won by Martin Creed for his installation The Lights Going On and Off - a room where lights went on and off.

The ICA hosted Hirst's first major London show in 1992
The ICA hosted Hirst's first major London show in 1992
Damien Hirst, best-known for works such as Mother and Child Divided, a cross-section of a dead cow, and Away from the Flock, a lamb in formaldehyde, was another target.

Hirst held his first major public London show at the ICA in 1992.

A spokeswoman for the ICA said Mr Massow's views were unlikely to change the gallery's criteria towards the exhibitions it stages, but she could not comment on how much influence he had over what gets shown.

The ICA describes itself as "a public playground" for presenting and experimenting with new and challenging art and forging innovative ways of thinking about culture.

Chairman of the ICA, Ivan Masso
"These people have become kind of rockstars"
Artist Tracy Emin
"If he is unhappy he should resign"
See also:

02 Aug 00 | UK
Ivan Massow: Gay abandon
13 Aug 01 | Arts
Emin defends her art
16 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Tracey makes a pile
13 Aug 01 | Arts
Hirst turns on patron Saatchi
12 Oct 01 | Arts
The Brits and modern art
20 Sep 00 | UK
Art's shock treatment
02 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Tory defector targets Hague
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Arts stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Arts stories