Laura Gascoigne: Tainted by Experience – March 2017

When the former controller of BBC Radio 3 John Drummond published an autobiography in 2001, he called

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it ‘Tainted by Experience’ – an ironic reference
to the reason given by a Birtist suit
at the Beeb for his being ‘let go’ a decade earlier. I haven’t read the book,
but the expression was used by William Varley in a positive

sense to describe a group of mature artists showing

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at Northumbria University Gallery in 2011,
and it stuck in

my mind. As it happens, Northumbria University Gallery is now itself under new management since its director of 38 years’ standing, Mara Helen Wood, was
‘let go’ by the university executive for being similarly ‘T by
E’, as reported by Varley on these pages last year.

Following the revolt of ‘the google_ad_height = 90; people’ against ‘the experts’ currently convulsing western democracies, we face the prospect – daunting or exhilarating, depending which side of the populist fence you’re on – of an expert-free future. If this is a revolution, as some people seem to think, then post-modern art has long been in its vanguard. Ever since

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Marcel Duchamp (or

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Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, take your pick) pissed on the art experts google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; with Fountain in 1917, expertise in art has been a dirty word. This causes
particular problems for avant-garde painters, since paint, unlike sanitary ware, is an impressionable substance that too readily absorbs the taint of experience. As a measure of contemporary artists’ desperation, an exhibition of young Canadian painters at
Pippy

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Houldsworth in 2008 was titled Learned Helplessness.

The fashion for bedroom painting, currently running in tandem with the fashion for lumber-room sculpture, appears to support Joseph Beuys’ egalitarian philosophy

that “everyone is an artist”. Technique is not the only casualty of this ostensible democratisation; knowledge of art history is another victim. In Elizabeth Fullerton’s Artrage: The Inside Story of the Britart Revolution, Liam Gillick says of his Goldsmiths generation: “We didn’t sit around talking about El Greco…
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It’s as if we started without any history”. The blanking google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; of

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history was about more than democratisation; it was a bid by ambitious young artists to turn over a

clean sheet

Prize, the world is still waiting. As previous nominee Tracey Emin rightly predicted: “You’ll never get a fucking radical winning the fucking
Turner Prize”. The reason is that the sheet was google_ad_width = 970; never clean. It wasn’t
true that the yBas started without any history; they just started with a lot less of it. They referred, deferred even, to history as google_ad_height = 90; reverently as the German Expressionists who copied El Greco; the difference was that they refused to look further back than Duchamp. And so, in the place of newness, we got
taint by experience – were under threat of replacement by professionals with “the right skills”.

Has anything good ever fallen out of a blue sky? In