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Eric Coombes: Drawing, tradition and Peter Clossick

Despite the best efforts of the state-art establishment visual intelligence survives, argues Eric Coombes In 1941, Augustus John contributed A Note on Drawing (from which I quoted a few words in the previous issue) to a book edited by Lillian Browse, containing reproductions of his own drawings. John records his sense of good fortune in having been a student at […]

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Editorial – November 2017

AND I SAY TO MYSELF Remain alert to the possibilities, eyes up instead of down, looking about instead of transfixed by a small screen, and daily life will furnish marvels, often in unexpected places. Exploring the streets and free institutions of a city like London is a journey through natural and man-made masterpieces, ingenuity everywhere apparent. To stand any chance […]

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Editorial – September 2017

Art And The Public – A Short History In the beginning the powerful provided the unlettered with uplifting Biblical pictures in churches. We were impressed ­even though some scenes threatened us with eternal agony if we broke their rules. The scarcity of pictures outside of church meant we were naturally curious about anything drawn or coloured. Wandering pedlars would show […]

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Editorial – July 2017

WHOLESALE GRATIFICATION  In the last issue I noted the gradual but relentless erosion of space allocated to historical pictures in Tate Britain. This contraction will now accelerate because the collection is to be re-hung, yet again, on this occasion thematically – a policy undoubtedly designed to demonstrate the State Art Commandment that all roads shall lead to the Usual Suspects. […]

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Editorial – May 2017

TATE BRITAIN NEEDS ITS IDENTITY BACK In recent issues I’ve described how since 1945 the education, bureaucracy and exponentially increasing cash for the visual arts have been usurped and dominated by an evolving one-track mindset which, in these pages, is called State Art. This sinister subversion of the institutions, predicted before and after the last war by Eliot, Wyndham Lewis and Orwell among […]

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Editorial – March 2017

Is There A Doctor in the House? Dennis Skinner once quipped loudly across the Commons to a faltering Cecil Parkinson at the Despatch Box, ‘It’s the in-breeding that does it!’ I was reminded of this amusing sneer when Doctor Maria Balshaw was announced as Serota’s replacement, an elevation met with the customary uncritical lauding with which a fawning Fourth Estate […]

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Editorial – January 2017

Has The Arts Council Betrayed Its Origins? Serota takes over at the Arts Council this month, 47 years after first being employed by the same body as a regional arts officer in what was his first job after university. In the interval the Council has developed into a blunt instrument by which State Art, an ethos it co-authored with Serota […]

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Editorial – November 2016

Art Education is Stuck Two years ago someone suggested I answer the question ‘What Happened to Art Education?’. This appealed slightly because it was a subject about which I thought I ought to know more than was the case. Something is clearly awry when so many complaints are aired about the poverty of tuition and when degree shows have become […]

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Editorial – September 2016

Pictures of Nothing and Very Like John Moores Exhibition 2016 Most of Europe’s countries are either bankrupt or in economic meltdown, their infrastructure crumbling and public services reduced; the Middle East and Levant are in post-apocalyptic ruin, in part the result of lies told in our own Parliament; an exodus of desperate humanity is seeking refuge from a criminal death-cult; […]

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Editorial – July 2016

Der Clapham Strassenbahn When very young, and when not train spotting, I was a keen bus spotter. It was an ideal apprenticeship for a fledgeling art historian. It involved identifying, sometimes at a considerable distance (through rain), the beautifully crafted, hand-built models, of which there were many different marques and specifications. Every town corporation in the county had its own […]