Art's cutting edge is orthodox

Ivan Massow ("Why I hate our official art", 21 January) is absolutely right in his assertion that publicly funded galleries in Britain are obsessed with a coterie of concept artists to the exclusion of all else.

The "cutting edge" has become the orthodox. A self-referring generation of curators have developed who exert a Stalinist grip on the exhibition programmes of all the major and most of the minor institutions. Few of them dare to step out of line, terrified of not following the lead set by a tiny cabal of dealers, collectors, critics and curators in the major galleries. Their careers depend upon their conformity.

I am a British painter with a successful career in America. My New York gallery (the Graham Gallery) has just negotiated the sale of a major series of 16 of my paintings to Denver Art Museum. My new exhibition, to be launched next year, will show in New York, San Francisco and Seattle. But in Britain? Only my local museum (Exeter) is independent enough (or far enough out of the loop) to agree to show it.

I have given up knocking my head against the brick walls of Britain's art institutions, growing weary of those mealy-mouthed letters: "while we can see the evident quality of your work, unfortunately it does not fit in with our exhibition policy at present". I should explain: my work is figurative, narrative, philosophically committed, positive and life-enhancing - not at all the sort of thing any curator with a reputation to make would dare to show.

Lest I be dismissed as a blinkered old fart, I very much enjoyed Tracey Emin's bed (I think she should have won the Turner Prize) and thought Damien Hurst's show at the Gargosian in New York a tour de force.

Tony Foster
Par, Cornwall

This article first appeared in the 04 February 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Revealed: how Labour sees women

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