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Art & Outrage: Provocation, Controversy and the Visual Arts

Art & Outrage: Provocation, Controversy and the Visual Arts

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Art & Outrage: Provocation, Controversy and the Visual Arts

Longueur:
420 pages
5 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Nov 20, 1998
ISBN:
9781783718221
Format:
Livre

Description

When art hits the headlines, it is usually because it has caused offence or is perceived by the media to have shock-value. Over the last fifty years many artists have been censored, vilified, accused of blasphemy and obscenity, threatened with violence, prosecuted and even imprisoned. Their work has been trashed by the media and physically attacked by the public.

In Art & Outrage, John A. Walker covers the period from the late 1940s to the 1990s to provide the first detailed survey of the most prominent cases of art that has scandalised. The work of some of Britain’s leading, and less well known, painters and sculptors of the post-war period is considered, such as Richard Hamilton, Bryan Organ, Rachel Whiteread, Reg Butler, Damien Hirst, Jamie Wagg, Barry Flanagan and Antony Gormley. Included are works made famous by the media, such as Carl Andre’s Tate Gallery installation of 120 bricks, Rick Gibson’s foetus earrings, Anthony-Noel Kelly’s cast body-parts sculptures and Marcus Harvey’s portrait of Myra Hindley.

Walker describes how each incident emerged, considers the arguments for and against, and examines how each was concluded. While broadly sympathetic to radical contemporary art, Walker has some residual sympathy for the layperson’s bafflement and antagonism. This is a scholarly yet accessible study of the interface between art, society and mass media which offers an alternative history of post-war British art and attitudes.
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Nov 20, 1998
ISBN:
9781783718221
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

John A. Walker (1937-2014) was Reader in Art and Design History at Middlesex University. He is the author of Art and Celebrity (Pluto, 2002), Art in the Age of Mass Media (Pluto, 2001), and Cultural Offensive: America's Impact on British Art Since 1945 (Pluto, 1998).

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Art & Outrage - John A. Walker

tolerance.

1

1949: MUNNINGS AND MODERN ART

In April 1949 Sir Alfred Munnings created a national furore by attacking Modern art in strong language via a radio broadcast of a speech given at the Royal Academy. His reactionary views were shared by most academicians, the leader of the Conservative Party and a wide cross-section of the public. Struggling to counter these views were the supporters of Modernism within the British arts establishment.

During the late 1940s an unusual alliance was forged between the professional politician, Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965), and the professional and commercially successful painter of horses, Sir Alfred Munnings (1878–1959). The former was a ‘Sunday’ painter who enjoyed painting landscapes out of doors in a manner indebted to Impressionism. The latter was notorious as a verbose, English eccentric of rural origins. (His favourite catchphrase was: ‘What a go!’) In terms of art, Munnings was a traditionalist and an empiricist: he believed artists should emulate masters such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Stubbs, and paint what they can see as accurately as possible; consequently, he hated Modern art because of its ‘abnormal fooleries’ and ‘distortion’ of reality. Paintings by Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso, according to Munnings, were the products of ‘disgruntled, cunning, incompetent minds’. He also objected to the fact that Modern art seemed to require the support of pretentious art criticism and complex theory.

These opinions were identical to those that Adolf Hitler expressed in the 1930s when vilifying so-called ‘degenerate’ Modern art. Like Hitler, Munnings was also an anti-Semite who shared the Nazi opinion that Modern art was an evil Jewish conspiracy. In one 1930s’ tirade against Modern Jewish artists he cited Picasso, only to be reminded by his listener that Picasso was Spanish, not Jewish. Undeterred by reason, Munnings switched his attack to the Jewish dealers and critics who were deceiving the public by promoting artists like Picasso. Later, in 1948, he caused a scene at the Garrick Club when he called Sir John Rothenstein, Director of the Tate Gallery, a bloody Jew and said this was the reason why another Jew – the Russian painter Marc Chagall – had been given a show at the Tate.

Munnings served as President of the Royal Academy from 1944 to 1949. The Academy at that time was a deeply conservative institution. No self-respecting Modern British artist would become a member or show work in its Piccadilly galleries even if they had been invited to do so. It was thanks to Munnings that Churchill’s paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1947. He arranged for six paintings to be submitted to the Selection Committee under the pseudonym ‘David Winter’ and was delighted when they were accepted. He also made sure that Churchill was awarded a Diploma as a Royal Academician Extraordinary. In his final year as President, Munnings revived the practice of the annual Academy Banquet (held on 28 April 1949). This was an all-male affair – women members of the Academy were excluded – at which speeches were given. In 1949 Munnings’s dinner speech reached a much wider audience by being broadcast on the Home Service of BBC radio.

With the Archbishop of Canterbury, Field Marshall Montgomery and Churchill present, Munnings chose to mount his most public attack on Modern art. With drunken glee he reported a question Churchill had supposedly put to him: ‘Alfred, if you met Picasso coming down the street would you join me in kicking his something something …? I said, Yes Sir, I would.’ (Churchill later wrote to Munnings to complain, ‘This is not the sort of statement that should be attributed to me.’)

Also criticised by Munnings were Matisse’s The Forest in the Tate Gallery collection, the Arts Council, London County Council public sculpture shows in Battersea Park – ‘bloated, monstrous nudes’ – Henry Moore’s Madonna and Child sculpture in the Church of St Matthew, Northampton, and Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the King’s pictures. (Blunt, later unmasked as a Soviet spy, was a target because he had maintained that Picasso was a better painter than Reynolds.) Most of the audience enjoyed Munnings’s jibes and greeted them with laughter and cries of ‘Hear, Hear’. A minority disagreed and interrupted Munnings saying that Matisse’s painting was ‘a beautiful

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