Brian Sewell (1931-2015)



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my intention to repeat the
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tediously familiar stories peddled by obituarists /* xin-1 */ relating controversies which


Brian’s inclination to mischief and provocation helped encourage. Instead I want to address two issues unconsidered elsewhere: src="//"> his astonishing generosity and the disgraceful but typical hypocrisy of the BBC towards him.
Brian was a working man. He called himself ‘working class’,
a description some dismissed as affectation. It wasn’t. Like his commuter readers he needed to work in order


to survive. Neither was he rich. Nevertheless, /* 9-970x90 */ he still donated liberally to promising but //--> needy art history students and charities, in particular those dealing google_ad_height = 90; with homelessness and the welfare of animals, and he encouraged friends to do the same. Equally, buying work from promising youngsters in order to get them started google_ad_height = 90; was
him a duty. He google_ad_width = 970; was src="//"> also selflessly free
with his time, knowledge and contacts. When he was your friend you felt it.

In early 2000 I quit editing google_ad_height = 90; Art Review, for which Brian had contributed many superb pieces on 20th century art’s main figures and which

always arrived in

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uncorrected typescript as though having emerged perfectly like a Mozart manuscript. He telephoned and asked me what I would do now. I
told him that I was devising the inaugural issue of The Jackdaw, which would continue the opposition to

State Art’s absurd and

arguing that I could keep costs down by not employing anyone, including myself, or renting an office and having poncy stationery. I’d tried to raise investment for the idea but no google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; one took the bait. The next morning I received in the post

It was a relief google_ad_width = 970; to

who follow the terrain

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disagree with the assessment
that, of google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; all his google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; contemporaries in art criticism, in art historical terms he was easily the most knowledgeable. Given his ability to speak
clearly and articulately – without artbollocks (which he always pedantically insisted to me should be properly spelt artballocks) – and because of his reputation as an elegant and amusing essayist – don’t forget
he won both the Orwell and Hawthornden Prizes
– he was hurt by the fact that Radio 4 never once asked him to appear in a review role on either of its main art programmes, Front Row or its predecessor Kaleidoscope. The list of waffling no-hopers in art criticism those programmes have employed would fill pages, but they never asked him. He would

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never have
admitted it publicly but this omission hurt.


a surprise then that not six //--> hours after his last difficult breath, his death
made the main BBC news where he was lauded as an influential leading critic, blah blah. If they
thought this

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true why did they so rarely use him? The answer is

simple. The BBC’s programmes,

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which in the visual arts are uncritical advertisements for their subjects, are willing promoters of

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the disgraceful sewer that is State Art, about which Brian


held damning views. Over the years he suggested many programmes, all rejected. It speaks volumes that the BBC asked Grayson Perry to give the /* xin2 */ Reith Lectures, but not src="//"> Brian. Of all the many independent voices we never hear, his cruel google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; neglect in particular demonstrates that in visual art you will be marginalised unless you toe the establishment line.

David Lee

The Jackdaw November/December 2015