Letter: Exhibiting a lack of vision

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Sir: I remember a few years ago Norman Rosenthal (letter, 22 September), the exhibition secretary at the Royal Academy of Arts, saying to me that all great exhibitions were about a personal, uncompromising, committed and enlightened choice. He went on to cite Bryan Robertson's shows at the Whitechapel during the Sixties as an example of this approach; unfortunately, neither he nor his co- selector, Christos M. Joachimides, possess Mr Robertson's vision.

The Royal Academy exhibition of American Art is characterised by its unswerving arrogance, as were all the previous exhibitions in this series, which have done a disservice to British, Italian, German and now American art. The hoo-ha and general dismay presently under discussion among artists is only an extension of what has gone on in the past.

This issue was discussed heatedly at the Air Gallery by myself and others, together with Mr Rosenthal, after the British Art show some years ago. The list of absent artists has already been raised by Sir Anthony Caro and Mr Robertson (letters, 17 and 20 September), but we must again question selectors who can exclude unquestionable world figures such as Hans Hofmann and Robert Motherwell. Their contribution to 20th-century art as embodied in their painting, and the massive impact of their writing and philosophies, has now become so deeply embedded in the modern psyche that people, perhaps, have forgotten the original source.

Theirs was a bigger agenda, arising from Cubism, Matisse and the entire European tradition of painting, music, poetry and literature. It has nothing to do with Coca-Cola culture; its aim is towards wider universal values. I suppose that in the view of the Royal Academy selectors it has no 'street cred' and is not fashionable or trendy; it is more fundamental and its principles are enduring and timeless.

Yours faithfully,


London, EC1

28 September