Jeremy Clarkson on Fine Art –

Jeremy Clarkson on Fine Art –

I think that Jeremy Clarkson is one of the funniest people on tv so when I found an article by Jeremy on fine art I just had to share it with you all.

From The Sunday Times

April 27, 2003

Comment: Jeremy Clarkson: We have the galleries, but where’s the art?

The opening of Charles Saatchi’s new gallery in London seems to have highlighted a problem. There are now so many galleries dotted around Britain that there simply isn’t enough art to go round.

We saw this first with Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, which sits like a big golden hat on the unkempt head of this otherwise unremarkable industrial city in northern Spain. It’s an astonishing building, which is a good thing because the exhibits inside aren’t astonishing at all.

When I went a couple of years ago there was a triangle, a very small maze and a frock. Further research has revealed that the most popular exhibition ever staged there was for customised motorcycles.

Now the disease has spread. All over Britain the dark satanic mills, which fell into disrepair when the empire crumbled, are being turned into art galleries. That may sound like a good idea at a meeting. But exactly how much art is there in Gateshead? Or Walsall?

Oh sure, rural pubs often encourage us to patronise “local artists”. So we pat them on the head, call their work “amazing”, ask where they got the idea to paint with their eyes closed and then run for our lives.

The fact is that most of Britain’s art is hung in the vaults of Japanese banks. The rest is at the Tate or the National. So while it’s jolly noble to turn a former duster factory in Glossop into a gleaming blend of low-voltage lighting and holly flooring, there is going to be a problem finding stuff to put on the walls.

The curators could turn to New York artist Maurizio Cattelan, whose recent works include a life-size sculpture of the Pope flattened by a meteorite that has supposedly crashed through the roof of the gallery. Then there’s his replica of the Vietnam war memorial in Washington DC, inscribed not with the names of dead soldiers but with every defeat suffered by the England football team.

There is, however, a problem with Cattelan’s work. Next month, someone is expected to pay more than £200,000 for his 8ft rabbit suspended by its ears. Were the buyer to be Walsall borough council, it’s fair to expect some kind of voter backlash.

As I keep saying, everything these days is measured in terms of how many baby incubators or teachers it could have bought. As a result, if a council spends £200,000 on a dangling bunny it’s going to find itself in the newspapers, that’s for sure.

Even Saatchi struggles. Obviously unable to secure a nice painting of some bluebells by a local artist, he has filled his new gallery with all sorts of stuff that to the untrained eye is food, bedding, waste and pornography.

At the opening party he got 200 people to lie naked outside the doors and such was the unusualness of it all that Helen Baxendale, the actress, said she was nervous about talking to Tracey Emin “in case she wees on me or something”.

Inside, guests could feast their eyes on a pickled shark, a room half-filled with sump oil and a severed cow’s head full of maggots and flies.

The high-profile nature of all this provides some hope for the owners of provincial galleries — they need only trawl their local butchers and fishmongers to fill half the space — but it’s not so good for you and me.

The trouble is that thanks to Saatchi — and to a certain extent, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen — there’s a sense that you can put anything on your walls at home and it will do. But it won’t.

I, for instance, have a very nice little picture in my sitting room. It’s of some cows on a misty morning by a river. I know this because it was painted by someone whose deftness with a brush meant he could represent cows and mist and a river.

Unfortunately, it gives off a sense that I’m not moving with the times. So really I should take it down and nail one of my dogs to the wall instead. Or maybe I should frame the Sunday joint and put that up.

It’s hard to know what to do. I could go for a picture of Myra Hindley that was painted using the dingleberries from a sheep. But it would almost certainly cost £150,000.

With my flat in London I went for a look that’s clean and clinical and minimalistic. Bare wooden floors and bare walls painted in one of those new colours that’s nearly Barbie pink but not quite. If you were to photograph it and put it in a design magazine, it would look fantastic and people would pay £5 to come and look round.

But every time I walk through the door I always think: “God, this place could do with some furniture.” The people living below probably think it could do with some carpets, too.

There’s another problem. It’s all very well subscribing to the “design” phase we are going through at the moment, but soon there will be another phase and then you’ll have to throw away your hardwood floors and start again.

It isn’t so bad when your trousers become dated because it’s only £50 for a new pair. But when you need a whole new house, that’s a different story. Which is why my misty cows are staying. Real art, like real jeans, never goes out of fashion. You’ll never hear anyone say: “That Mona Lisa. She’s so last week.”

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

4 Responses

  1. […] contrast that with the wit of Jeremy Clarkson, courtesy of the Art Market Blog. In the article cited by Art Market, Clarkson talks about how there’s a glut of British […]

  2. Interesting observations. Here in the northeastern USA I’ve observed a strong growth in art galleries. Also more artists producing more art, although the artists are often neighbors & friends, amateurs & part-timers. Do I sense a creative explosion?

  3. I’ve heard some good things about this blog. Remember to balance the pics with the text tho. cheers!

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