Evelyn Williams, and another case of the public denied

QQ:99362012 width="800" height="626" srcset="http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/LiverpoolHeads.jpg 800w, http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/LiverpoolHeads-300x234.jpg 300w, http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/LiverpoolHeads-70x55.jpg 70w" sizes="(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px" />In the last issue I considered

the case of a single-minded good artist,  David Mulholland from Middlesbrough, whose memory, in the absence of any official recognition or support, has to be kindled for posterity’s sake by friends and family. By The Jackdaw’s usual standard of eliciting no comment whatsoever, this caused a considerable mailbag from many mentioning other artists who deserved better than the obscurity and indifference they receive. Owing to the recent death of a special artist, there is cause for reiterating this line of criticism of an art establishment

subjects take you inside the realm of senses and feelings, probing src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> the unspoken secrecies behind the masks of propriety we all wear. In the way that art has of redeeming the awful, these are beautiful explorations of states of mind most try to avoid. Her work can be relentlessly intense, no question about that, but it is pure in spirit and purpose.

Three of the

again well before that gallery’s prostration before the winds of Biennale bluster. Williams continued her brave exploration of inner places that made her work then so widely admired. She worked every day of her life and although her commercial exhibitions continued, sometimes at long intervals owing to the complexity of ideas and their necessarily prolix gestation, a /* 9-970x90 */ retrospective was never offered in her lifetime. Approached by friends in the last decade of

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her life, the Walker Art Gallery turned her down for such an honour.
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She couldn’t exert the pulling power of a Rolf Harris or Paul McCartney.

Will Williams now receive

the lifetime retrospective her work deserves, and which a wide audience google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; should see? It isn’t likely.

But why should this be, when there are more galleries nationwide which are more spacious than ever before? The answer is that as the public gallery network expands the same orthodoxy is spread across even more outlets. More galleries does not mean a wider selection of work on display; it means the same work //--> by the same few artists spread across even more galleries even more frequently.

What are called ‘Artists’ Rooms’ are a symbolic example of what is wrong with this rotten system. These

‘Rooms’ are organised by the Tate, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Art Fund (how long will it be before the Art /* xin2 */ Fund can only be contacted via the Tate switchboard?), and they resulted from a bulk purchase,
jointly by the Tate and the SNGMA
in 2008. We bought for £42 million (£27

million in cash – the figure varies in different reports;
we’ve never been told the exact sum – and £15 million in waived tax) retiring art dealer Anthony d’Offay’s gallery stock, which he called his private collection.  A cynic might say that Artists’ Rooms is the process by which the personal collection of one commercially motivated individual now dictates what a large proportion of the art-seeking population is allowed to see in the name of src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> recent google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; art. The same cynic might further add that Artists’ Rooms is the opportunity by which established reputations – such as Warhol’s – are constantly hammered home, and for the smaller ‘Room’ names, it is the instrument by which a more significant brand name can be nurtured.

Under the auspices of the Art Fund, an organisation which luckily is headed by a former //--> director of Tate Britain, 30 rooms featuring 760 works by 26 artists have

been touring the country for four years, mostly as small one-man retrospectives. Some of these are marvellous, not least the extensive collection of photographs by
August Sander. There
are 232 works by Warhol alone, who gets two rooms to himself travelling at the same time. At the moment they are in Sheffield and Hull, and then Birmingham for four months. That is apart from relatively recent major exhibitions for the same artist at the google_ad_width = 970; Tate, the Hayward and other Arts Council galleries.  Warhol is showing somewhere all the time. We will not

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be allowed to ignore him.

One of the Artists’ Rooms deals, inevitably, with Damien Hirst. This is currently google_ad_width = 970; on show in Walsall Art Gallery. It

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has been there for
two months already and will remain in place for another year. What is happening when a fifty-year-old artist, already over-exhibited at a time when so many unexposed artists
can’t get their work shown, is having a thirteen-month long exhibition? What //--> is the reason for such indoctrination? Too often the Artists’ Rooms represent those who are already widely exhibited and who are bastions of the art market.

Artists Rooms are a blunt instrument whereby approved taste is circulated (inflicted) from the centre. They constitute cheap google_ad_height = 90; exhibitions for Arts Council venues up and down the country, whose curators don’t have to originate their own programme. The laziness and ready compliance of these jobsworths is a godsend to State Art.  They can merely exhibit the same few approved brand names for ever. And make no mistake their career will depend upon them favouring these “right” kinds of artists for no individual prospers in State Art by demonstrating initiative or investigating the unorthodox.

Visit the Hepworth Gallery in /* xin-1 */ Wakefield and you will discover the

other reason, besides the dreaded Artists’ Rooms, why thought and broad knowledge among curators is unnecessary. There is a new species of art collectors who caught the disease of wholesale, apparently google_ad_height = 90; random acquisition from Saatchi. These people fuel the market for State Art which they buy in quite staggering quantities. Their houses, full of wince-inducing tat bought for eye-watering sums, feature frequently in glossy magazines. Usually they are rewarded

for their commitment


to the State Art cause with the accolade of a position on a Tate committee, of which there are now dozens. At


Serota’s Tate money not knowledge is the essential qualification for co-option.

One such überbuyer – who has google_ad_width = 970; not yet been brought on to any Tate committee – is one David Roberts, a property developer, who has accumulated so much clutter he’s opened his own ‘space’ and has begun feeding pieces to regional galleries, Wakefield being the first venue. Works selected are linked as follows: “This exhibition examines ways in which modern and contemporary artists represent the human



in various media to explore psychological and emotional life.” What a

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perfect criterion that is for the inclusion of src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> a major work by Evelyn Williams. Unfortunately, the trouble is that among Roberts’s 3,000 plus works there is nothing by Williams. But have a guess whose work he does own and whose efforts are on show in Wakefield: enter Warhol and Hirst.

David Lee

The Jackdaw January-February 2013

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