Faces to watch in the art world; 2. Stuart Morgan
Stuart Morgan is the curator of the Tate Gallery's current Rites of Passage exhibition, an essayist and editor for art magazines and an inventive - not to say idiosyncratic - lecturer on the art college circuit.
Tuesday 27 June 1995
He lives alone, is careless of possessions, and for long periods his phone remains disconnected. He only discovered contemporary art after wandering by chance into Brighton College of Art in the late 1960s (he promptly abandoned the doctorate, in American Studies, he was undertaking at the time). At 46, Morgan is having a good year. Later this summer, hot on the heels of the Tate show, a collection of his criticism - culled from almost two decades of writing for such art magazines as Artscribe (which he edited for a period in the '80s), Artforum and Frieze - is being published. Nowadays he is a tireless contributor to Frieze, while also teaching at the Ruskin School at Oxford.
Rites of Passage is an unusually compelling exhibition, a series of disconcerting tableaux by an unexpected and disparate group of artists. It's typical Morgan: a recent public lecture bought together the politics of the court of King James, Joseph Beuys and Shakespeare's Tempest. His writing displays a similar - and sometimes alarming - breadth, ranging from Arshile Gorky's style to Jerry Lewis's Telethons, from encounters with Louise Bourgeois (whom Morgan first introduced to a British audience in the early 1980s) to the multi-media operatics of Steve Reich.
Brian Sewell, reviewing Rites of Passage, concluded that Morgan's catalogue essay could have been written by anyone. Thankfully, no-one writes like Sewell, while the translucency of Morgan's prose serves as a humane and original model of contemporary art criticism in this country. Recently, Morgan said that he wanted Rites of Passage to make people cry. "Why", I asked him? "I suppose",
he said, "because I'm Welsh."
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