we pee on things and call it art


His enemies, and God knows he has a few, often complain that Sewell’s love of art ends with Poussin. Anything later and he just isn’t interested. This is inaccurate. He has a ‘quite unreasonable passion’ for Joseph Beuys and loves the Chapman brothers. On balance, however, it is fair to say that he thinks that modern art is rubbish. ‘We’ve reached the point where Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen might as well be an artist; all he needs is an empty room and some chalk. We pee on things, we pee into things, we pee over things… and call it art.’ He is especially contemptuous of women artists. ‘Women are no good at squeezing cars through spaces. If you have someone who is unable to relate space to volume, they won’t make a good artist. Look at Barbara Hepworth – a one-trick pony. Look at that pile of rubbish in the Tate by Rachel Whiteread.’ I choose not to respond to this. He moves on. ‘This will end in disaster. In another generation, it will be inconceivable that anyone will be taught how to paint. The blind are leading the blind. The head of painting at the Royal College couldn’t paint a Christmas card.’ Does he find this depressing? ‘Not enormously. I’ve looked over the edge at death in the past few years enough times; when you’ve done that, you no longer find anything much very depressing.’

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