OPINION: The public is being conned by these artists

Just who do they think they are kidding? I refer not to the IRA’s latest offer to keep its arsenal intact but unused. Nor am I stimulated by the Sunday Times’ front page reports, one on top of the other, that Chancellor Gordon Brown wants to cut Labour’s spin doctoring and the Government is calling in Sir Richard Branson to advise on how ’to make NHS hospitals more consumer friendly’.

Just who do they think they are kidding? I refer not to the IRA’s

latest offer to keep its arsenal intact but unused. Nor am I stimulated

by the Sunday Times’ front page reports, one on top of the other, that

Chancellor Gordon Brown wants to cut Labour’s spin doctoring and the

Government is calling in Sir Richard Branson to advise on how ’to make

NHS hospitals more consumer friendly’.



The very idea of Gordon Brown complaining about ’over-spinning’ after

employing Charlie Whelan and being repeatedly criticised by fellow MPs

for his presentation of economic data is as hilarious as Sir Richard

Branson performing a public service. I recall Sir Richard was once put

in charge of cleaning up Britain. I’m not aware he confiscated a single

piece of litter. Nor should the boss of Virgin Railways be the first

port of call for advice on satisfying consumers. It sometimes seems the

lunatics really are in charge of the asylum.



Nowhere am I more certain of this than in the arts world. It seems

utterly oblivious of the utter contempt in which it is held by the vast

majority of down-to-earth folk I speak to, especially outside loopy

London. We’ve had corpses of assorted animals preserved in formaldehyde

and passed off as stunning works of art. Similarly loads of bricks,

other building materials and any old rope arranged to represent

something pretentiously imaginative in the minds of the deranged. An

unmade and rather unsanitary bed entered for a premier prize. Excreta

figuring in ... er compositions. Entries for loads of prizes serving

only to advertise the amazing insouciance of the con-artistic

establishment. And nobody ever expecting any winner of a book prize to

be readable.



So let’s come to what’s brought all this on. It’s the Royal Academy

’upstaging the opening of Tate Modern with a controversial show focusing

on beauty and horror’ as the Guardian described its latest stunt. This

Apocalypse exhibition includes a sculpture of the Pope being hit by a

meteorite, apparently as a come-on for the Academy’s real autumn shocker

which will have as its centrepiece a work called ’Fxxxxxx Hell’, a

gruesome series of tableaux depicting the horrors of the 20th century,

including the coarsening of the language.



The Royal Academy’s impresario, Norman Rosenthal, gave the game away

when he said: ’The new Tate changes the whole structure of things. The

Royal Academy will have to adapt to that’. In other words, the arrival

of the new Tate, no doubt exhibiting tons of what you and I would

describe as rubbish, means that the Royal Academy will have to compete.

And the only way to do that is to shock, scandalise, cheapen and insult

the Old Masters. This isn’t art, it’s commerce. PR’s code of practice

should have a fierce law against passing this off as art. Such

misrepresentation holds PR up to ridicule too.



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