Dates: 1931-

Nationality: British

Brian Sewell is a British art critic, motoring expert and media personality. He writes for the London Evening Standard and is noted for artistic conservatism and his acerbic view of the Turner Prize and conceptual art. A noted wit, Sewell has been described as “Britain’s most famous and controversial art critic.”

In 1984 he became art critic of the Evening Standard (replacing avant-garde critic Richard Cork). He won press awards including Critic of the Year in 1988, Arts Journalist of the Year in 1994, the Hawthornden Prize for Art Criticism in 1995 and the Foreign Press Award (Arts) in 2000. In April 2003 he was awarded “The George Orwell” prize for his political/current affairs column in the Evening Standard. In criticisms of the Tate Gallery’s art, he coined the phrase, the “Serota Tendency”, after its director Nicholas Serota. It was not until the late 1990s that he became a household figure through television, though he was on BBC Radio 4 before then.

Sewell is noted for formal, old-fashioned diction and anti-populist sentiments. He offended people in Gateshead by claiming an exhibition was too important to be held only at the town’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and should be shown to “more sophisticated” audiences in London; he has also disparaged Liverpool as a cultural city.Sewell’s attitude to female artists has been controversial. In July 2008 he was quoted in The Independent as saying:

“The art market is not sexist. The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank. There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”

Sewell’s extensive vocabulary and verbose reviews are parodied in the ‘Brian Sewell Does Pop Culture!’ feature in The Tart webzine. Each week Sewell reviews a popular culture artefact, from television, film or pop music. Sewell does not hold his tongue regarding his opinions, and has frequently insulted the general public for their views on art.Consequently, he is more known for controversy than art criticism among many. He has issued quotes such as the following regarding public praise for the work of Banksy in Bristol:

“The public doesn’t know good from bad. For this city to be guided by the opinion of people who don’t know anything about art is lunacy. It doesn’t matter if they [the public] like it.”

He went on to assert that Banksy himself “should have been put down at birth.” Clive Anderson has described him as “a man intent on keeping his Christmas card list nice and short.”

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Brian Sewell’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 November 2010, 12:49 UTC, <>

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