Letter: Not all provincialism hails from the provinces

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Graham-Dixon's article on St Ives ('A fine headstone for an artist's way of life', 29 June) was a pretty tense affair. He clearly thinks the project is for a 'plebeian wasteland'. I suppose I should expect such comments but they still amaze me. I am delighted the gallery avoided such London provincialism. I know that any London project requiring the degree of co- operation reached in St Ives would be doomed by London's own vested interests. I welcome the Tate's plan for a gallery of contemporary art but know it will be imposed on the capital by government fiat or some millionaire. It could never root itself naturally, as did the St Ives project.

I am sure Mr Graham-Dixon's chosen role of defender of the modernist faith from the second rate is a difficult one. I think he should relax, perhaps take up surfing and give we plebs a chance to debate for ourselves between good and bad art. I agree that Nicholson's reliefs are 'amongst the most impressive works made by any English artist in the first half of this century'. Lanyon's paintings are 'the finest works in the entire museum'. After years of looking, I, too, worry about some Hepworths, but I do admire John Wells and think Gabo an extraordinary artist. Though neither a Londoner nor a critic, I hope my opinions might still be interesting.

If making great art is impossible in St Ives because 'artists always move on' then, by analogy, aspiring artists should abandon New York and London because they have had their moment. Life ain't like that, despite dents in the old capital city nexus of dealer/critic/curator.

Contemporary art is healthier in Europe and America because its regions can contribute to national and international debate. With inspiration from and access to art galleries such as St Ives, artists need no longer be tied to London or its prevailing provincialism. However, it might take a while for London critics to realise this.

Yours faithfully,


Budleigh Salterton, Devon

The writer played a leading role in bringing about the new Tate Gallery in St Ives.

(Photograph omitted)