Letter: Critics be damned

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Sir: With regard to Andrew Graham-Dixon's vicious attack on R. B. Kitaj's show at the Tate Gallery ('The Kitaj Myth', 28 June), why should critics be allowed to decide on behalf of the public? Would it not be fairer if art critics who strongly disliked a show had the decency to wait until midway through an exhibition before making their views known? That would allow personal recommendation by word of mouth to determine whether the show was any good or not.

I am bewildered that art critics feel able to pontificate with equal confidence one week on Kitaj, the next on Celtic bronzes, Tintoretto's paintings, Ming porcelain, Mexican textiles or whatever else is on show: in a day's work they can put together a few hundred words that will deliver to thousands a judgement on the life-long activity of a painter or of a scholar. Are critics geniuses? Or just 'small men with a megaphone held to their lips', to quote Mr Graham-Dixon?

May I be allowed, Sir, to reach at least the readers of this page, to tell them that I think the paintings by Kitaj are beautiful, and that they should go and see them at the Tate. I have never read a word Kitaj has written, and do not care in the least about his own intentions in painting these pictures: they may not be exciting as statements, but they surely are as paintings, in their intriguing combination of representation and abstraction, of draughtsmanship and seeming carelessness, of flatness of surface and richness of texture.

Yours faithfully,


Editor, Print Quarterly

London, NW8