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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 18:23 GMT
Massow has no regrets in art row
Andy Warhol at the Tate
Massow says Warhol mixes talent and the conceptual
Ivan Massow has defended his comments about the British art scene following his resignation as chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Mr Massow caused a storm in the art world after writing an article in the New Statesmen which said much conceptual art was "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat".

I want people to make much more independent decisions about why they are buying art

Ivan Massow
The businessman told BBC News Online he had no regrets about his comments but he did regret the way artist Tracey Emin had been singled out and brought into the debate.

He said his comments that she could not "think her way out of a paper bag" were misquoted and he had asked the magazine to write to her to "put the record straight".


"My views are not against conceptual art and certainly not against contemporary art," he said.

I am talking about a problem I see in the way art is curated, the problem with the way it is bought and the reason it is bought by galleries

Ivan Massow
He added: "I was simply saying conceptual art was dominating the market and was suffocating talent and preventing other forms of art to come through."

But he picked out artists such as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst who combined the conceptual with talent.

Mr Massow said his aim was to start a debate about art and how it is curated and bought.

"The Young British Artist phenomenon has been fantastically profitable for a handful of collectors, dealers and artists.

"It is incredibly trendy and has become this weird industry where people buy a Tracey Emin print, for instance, because they want to be in the know and sophisticated and knowing about art, rather than simply liking something."

Mr Massow said he stepped down to save the ICA from the embarrassment of having to sack him.


He said he was sorry that Tracey Emin had been singled out in the debate.

"She has become synonymous with conceptual art and conceptual art has become synonymous with contemporary art.

Emin's My Bed
Massow regrets singling out Tracey Emin'a work
"I wasn't quite as rough on her in the piece [in the New Statesman] as was found in the copy.

"I said Charles Saatchi may have supplied some of the philosophy behind some of her work which related to the 'thinking' comment.

"They [the magazine] changed it to installation so they gave the impression that Charles Saatchi created the installation which I wouldn't write because I know that is not true.

"That is very bad and I asked them to write to her personally and put the record straight which they have said they have done."

He said he hoped his comments would "slightly burst the bubble" surrounding the British art scene.

'Aesthetic judgements'

"I am talking about a problem I see in the way art is curated, the problem with the way it is bought and the reason it is bought by galleries.

Ivan Massow
Massow: "Not really criticising conceptual art"
"It would be nice to empower people to say what they really like and use wider aesthetic judgements over whether something is good, rather than whether something is clever on a philosophical basis."

He described as Orwellian the fact the Tate Modern's director Sir Nicholas Serota, whom he had described as a "cultural tsar", runs a curating course at the Royal College of Art (RCA).

Teresa Gleadowe is the well-respected director of the Visual Arts Administraton course at the RCA.

He said: "It is so Orwellian it is untrue - this idea of churning out little curators who will continue to put on shows in a style, in the Tate or Serota style, and propagate this industry forever.

"I want people to make much more independent decisions about why they are buying art."

See also:

05 Feb 02 | Arts
ICA chairman resigns
01 Feb 02 | Arts
Tracey Emin promotes BBC Four
18 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
BBC Four promises 'culture feast'
25 Apr 01 | Arts
Emin's new show gets personal
13 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Emin airs her dirty linen
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