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Man About Town: How we could flush out these phoney art fans


In the gents at the Royal Academy on Wednesday, I heard a conversation between two banker-types: “So you're a big art fan, then?” asked one, as they washed their hands. “Not really, but I know what I like, you know?”

I had previously thought the “I know what I like” line was so far into the realms of cliché that it was something that no one actually said. But apparently they do, and at such august surrounds as the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition.

It remains one of my very favourite events of the year, and this year, as ever, there is some brilliant art on the walls. It's been going 250 years, and anyone who wants to send in a piece of art, can. If it's chosen, it can hang on the wall next to the work by the medal-wearing Royal Academicians. It's a truly democratic thing.

And for the visitor, no names are obviously identifiable meaning that you really can judge it by “what you like”. The other big art cliché - “even I/my child/my dog could have done that” is the other sort of phrase one hears too often. Of course saying such things about successful artist generally precludes you from having the creativity required for interesting thought, but then people who say it don't have the capacity to realise it.

It's the sort of thing some might apply to David Shrigley. The Cheshire-born, Glasgow-based artist's work is part of a new exhibition which covers the walls (and the tables) of the recently refurbished Gallery room at Sketch restaurant in London, which opened this week. Shrigley is a rare thing: a funny, unstuffy artist in an overly serious, self-important world. He has even designed the plates, bowls and salt and pepper shakers (there were three on the table, one that had “dirt” written on it - it was pepper - another that had “dust” - salt - and one that said “nothing” - which contained, appropriately, nothing).

The answer to it, of course, is if you, little Archie, or Pepper the dog, had the imagination or skill to do what he did, you would be doing it. And earning the money that came with it, and probably covering the walls of top restaurants...