Outspoken critic believes BBC art poll is irrelevant
ONE OF THE world's greatest living art critics, renowned for his furious attacks on contemporary artists, has now turned his anger on the BBC by refusing to go on the flagship Today programme to discuss Britain's favourite painting.
In what the BBC has described as the first ever national survey of paintings to be held anywhere in the world, the public have been invited to vote for any painting in Britain to determine the nation's greatest work of art.
The poll has attracted such artistic luminaries to discuss their favourite painting as Jack Vettriano and Boris Johnson, but held no attraction for Time Magazine critic Robert Hughes who was scheduled to appear on Saturday's broadcast.
Yesterday, he dismissed the poll as a "minor circulation-building exercise" and said he refused to discuss it because it was of "no relevance".
Hughes, who is in Edinburgh to deliver a lecture as part of the Arts Festival, said: "Of course there are wonderful works of art in England. A deposit of hundreds and hundreds of years of commissioning and artists living here, and the systematic plunder of other countries [has created] an absolute treasure house as far as the visual arts is concerned.
"As for saying what is the greatest, the fastest, the thinnest, and all that stuff, is not what I am into. In my opinion there is nothing to which it could be relevant except a minor circulation-building exercise."
Hughes, who is widely regarded as one of the most esteemed and widely read art critics, was invited to Edinburgh University to deliver a lecture on great artists to coincide with the opening of the Paula Rego exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery.
Speaking ahead of the lecture, the critic launched a scathing attack on the contemporary British art scene dismissing Brit Art as a journalistic invention.
"If you ask me who the English artists I most admire who are living today I don't think any of them will be the names one would include under Brit Art. The most famous of them, Damian Hirst, has certainly taken a terrible nosedive of late and I don't think the famous shark was all that great. It would have been much more interesting if he had caught it himself instead of getting Charlie Saatchi to get a big Australian game fisherman to catch it. I think Tracy Emin's stuff is amateurish rubbish."
When asked what he thought of Jack Vettriano's work, Hughes said:
"Jack who? If he has achieved that sort of price then good luck to him."
In 1999 Hughes was left in a coma for five weeks after the late-night crash on May 28, 1999, along a dark stretch of Outback road. Yesterday, he said he was making a full recovery and that the experience taught him that there is nothing on the other side.
"During my whole experience I never had the slightest intimation that there was life on the other side. All I remember was darkness and pain. Anyway, the upshot of filling my days lying in hospital like a 60s hippy is that I thought maybe I should explain myself to myself so I am writing my autobiography.
"The first part, which has the working title Out of Australia, covers the circumstances of growing up in an intensely religious household and moving from Australia to England to Europe."
Born in Sydney, Hughes graduated from that city's St Ignatius College and went on to Sydney University, where he studied the arts and architecture. He abandoned his course of study at 21 when he was commissioned to write a history of Australian painting. Before joining Time he had stints on a number of British papers including the Sunday Times.
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