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Tom Lubbock

Tom Lubbock is the Observer’s regular radio reviewer.

What’s It All About?

Tom Lubbock, 6 April 1995

Last autumn, at the award ceremony of the 1994 Turner Prize, Charles Saatchi took the podium at the Tate Gallery. It was a very rare public appearance by Britain’s leading private collector of contemporary art. His words were awaited with interest. Since it opened to the public in 1985, the Saatchi collection in St John’s Wood has become a focus of what’s called the contemporary art debate. With every purchase, names are made and names are called. But Saatchi’s taste, his collecting policy, is eclectic and elusive. So much art, of so many kinds, has passed into and sometimes out of his hands: British, American, German, minimal, Neo-Expressionist, Neo-Geo, new object, photographic, installation, trad fig. Since 1992 he’s been prominently showcasing young British artists, the objects of much attention and controversy lately. Surely some kind of indicative statement might have been expected. And this is what (in part) he said: ‘I’m not sure what today’s young artists are putting in their porridge in the mornings, but it seems to be working. They are producing the most striking new art being made anywhere in the universe. And it seems every museum from Nebraska to Alaska is ringing up trying to organise shows of their work … And if sometimes that work is tasteless and cynical and uncouth it’s because sometimes we all are.’…

Men at Work

Tom Lubbock, 12 January 1995

Personal witness has a peculiar status in the criticism of painting and sculpture, a status which it seems not to have in the criticism of other arts. There’s some feature of the visual arts that requires or favours the activity of the critic as witness. I’m not referring here to the supposed necessity for ‘expertise’ when it comes to the visual arts, or to the need evidently felt by its audience for authoritative/enthusiastic communicators (Kenneth Clark, Robert Hughes, Wendy Beckett) which no other artistic public feels – though these things are doubtless relevant. I mean the priority given to a mode of address: when the critic performs, not by talking to us about work to which we’re both assumed to have access, but rather by experiencing the work on our behalf, for our benefit.’

Letter

Under Wraps

12 January 1995

I see my mistake. As David Sylvester points out (Letters, 23 February), I was wrong to say that the first five chapters of Looking at Giacometti are ‘reprinted’, implying previous publication. (Chapters One and Five have already been published: Two, Three and Four, not.) I meant only to say that those five chapters were written by the time of Giacometti’s death in 1966, and are printed...

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