Christopher Frayling: The media don't realise the popularity of British art

From a speech by the chairman of the Arts Council, given at the Royal Society of Arts, in London

Share
Related Topics

When the Momart warehouse in Leyton burned down last year, my first reaction was a rush of adrenalin. As chair of the Arts Council, I'm responsible for the Arts Council Collection, pieces of which were stored at Momart - luckily not damaged. And as rector of the Royal College of Art, I'm responsible for the college's painting and sculpture collection, which is mercifully warehoused by other companies. We'd considered moving it to Momart quite recently.

When the Momart warehouse in Leyton burned down last year, my first reaction was a rush of adrenalin. As chair of the Arts Council, I'm responsible for the Arts Council Collection, pieces of which were stored at Momart - luckily not damaged. And as rector of the Royal College of Art, I'm responsible for the college's painting and sculpture collection, which is mercifully warehoused by other companies. We'd considered moving it to Momart quite recently.

But the thing that struck me as most strange - and disturbing - was the reaction of some parts of the media. Sniggering attention was focused almost entirely on the "Young British Artists", and Tracey Emin's tent in particular. No mention of work by earlier or even parallel generations of artists.

It was only when the dust had - literally - settled that the scale of the loss was realised. Then the sniggering comments about Tracey Emin's tent began to subside a bit. But there were still articles about how none of the lost art was irreplaceable, how most contemporary art was throwaway art anyway, how at some level it was all a con trick.

No one put the other case - that we should have much more confidence in the work of our contemporaries. If just one Old Master drawing had been destroyed, think of the hoo-ha there would have been. But above all, I think the media - with their knee-jerk reaction - were out of step with their readers and their audience on this one.

In recent years, the contemporary visual arts have enjoyed not just a sustained period of productive activity, but a much higher profile than ever before. The coverage of the fire, though, made me wonder just how far we have come since the Carl André "pile of bricks" debacle at the Tate a generation ago.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence