Janet Daley

The Flat-Footed Nihilism of Contemporary British Art

No one who has had any prolonged contact with the visual arts in this country could have failed to be aware of a profound anti-intellectualism and professional xenophobia which distinguishes the British artist from his European and American counterparts. This insistence on an inalienable distinction between the practice of art and any ideas which might be had about it, varies in intensity from dyspeptic irritability with any would-be theoretical distractions, to full-blown paranoia about the encroachment of academic concerns. Distrust of theoretical or interpretative activity has been institutionalized (as opposed to caused) by the art schools, in which the teaching of art historical and critical issues is handled with surgical separateness from studio practice.

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