Letter: Beware of trendy art critics

A FEW WEEKS ago it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who fell foul of the Independent for his admiration of the painterly, figurative art of Leon Kossoff. Last Sunday it was the turn of the Minister of Culture, pilloried for selecting work by established artists such as Howard Ackroyd for his office walls ("Revealed: what Culture Secretary Chris Smith hangs on his walls", 29 August). There is no mention in your reporting that the choice of modern art, rather than an easy recourse to the canon of 18th- or 19th-century British painting, is quite a novelty in government offices, and a trait which distinguishes the present administration from their predecessors.

Instead, Matthew Collings provides a trivialising account of artists whose crime appears to be that they are very successful, employ the media of paint, canvas and print and belong to an older generation of artists which has little in common with the issue-based or conceptual art currently in vogue. It is a peculiarity of British art journalism, as compared with that of France or the United States for example, to treat with contempt any modern art which lies outside the current avant-garde, regardless of its merit, and to extend such contempt into a personalised attack on the artist.


Dean, Faculty of Arts

University of Southampton