Thursday, 27 January 2011

Modern British Sculpture at the Royal Academy

Modern British Sculpture at the Royal Academy

Initial impressions of the exhibition were good with examples of works by Epstein, Gill, Moore and Hepworth, amongst others. However it is when one enters a room with work by Carl Andre and Richard Long that it all starts to go wrong; there is a marked deterioration in both technique and imagination. If one applies the scrapheap challenge, where works of art are placed in a scrap yard and people are invited to save anything they deem to be art, then most of the sculpture in the following rooms would be left in the mud. I am not sure the Caro in the previous room would have passed that test either.

Another test for great art is that it surprises the viewer, eliciting a response from the viewer and having an unconscious appeal to their emotions. In the latter rooms in this exhibition the artists have tried to surprise the viewer by producing work that previously would never have been considered as art, and only is now by reason of being placed in a gallery. They have used the unpleasant and the vile to shock us with their artistic audacity, seeking publicity through controversy rather than talent. They have produced complex explanations to elevate their work, without which the work would be meaningless, and, as such, fail as a piece of art; the art itself should convey the message. Art should surprise but it should do it through technique and the power of the imagination.

Anyone who visits this exhibition will think that for the last four decades we have produced nothing worthwhile, nothing that elevates the spirit, nothing that shows a degree of skill or imagination. This is not an exhibition about modern British Sculpture; rather it shows a very restrictive sample of what has been produced in the last 40 years. For that the Royal Academy should be ashamed, if they think this exhibition represents modern British sculpture they should open their eyes, and their minds; for there is great art out there but, unfortunately, the art establishment has spent decades and millions of pounds of public money promoting the banal, mundane and mediocre. Art colleges continue to churn out ‘artists’ that lack technique and imagination, who have been conned into believing that this is art, where mediocrity is not only acceptable, it is celebrated.

Needless to say this exhibition made me both angry and depressed.

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