BBC's Design of the Century Award to Mackintosh Mocked

Article excerpt

Byline: DEBORAH ANDERSON

A CHARLES Rennie Mackintosh creation has topped a BBC list of the 20th century's best art and design masterpieces.

Glasgow School of Art, in Renfrew Street, Glasgow, was built between 1896 and 1909 in two phases based on plans drawn up by the renowned Victorian genius.

But the selection was last night derided by a leading art critic.

Brian Sewell accused the Glasgow architect and designer of making 'shoddy' furniture which was 'bloody uncomfortable' to sit on.

He also attacked the BBC's choice for its panel of commentators, including former Scottish pop singer Pat Kane, who were asked to rank the design top 20.

'I wouldn't be asked to comment on pop music - I don't know anything about it. It would be impertinent,' said Mr Sewell. 'To get a pop musician drawing up a list in my field seems to me equally impertinent.' The designs selected by the panel will appear on the BBC's website and form the basis for a series on the cable and satellite arts channel UK Arena.

The panelists made few selections from the worlds of fashion or advertising but included Antony Gormley's 200-ton colossus Angel of the North - derided by critics as 'bad taste on a vast scale' and Rachel Whiteread's concrete cast of the inside of a house.

Sir Gilbert Scott's red phone box made the top 100 but not the top 20, and there is little sign of the influence of television or film - though the old BBC test card of a girl with balloons has been included.

Mary Quant's mini skirt is in the top 100, but Jean Muir's 'little black dress' has not made the list at all. Only four women are among the top 20 artists or designers on the list.

The BBC has added a further 80 designers with the aim of encouraging debate.

The panel's choices have been scathingly described by Stephen Bayley, former creative director of the Millennium Dome, as a 'combination of the sterile chill of Cool Britannia and foetid waft from the Central Office of Information, circa 1959'.

Mr Sewell warmed to his subject to condemn what he called 'the gospel according to the political correctitude of art history'.

Mr Sewell said that the Mini, although it was a 'very good design which still looks exceptional 40 years on' was also 'shoddily made'.

He said: 'Good design is a Coke bottle. Design is something which is the application of common sense to the use of something without abandoning all ideas of proportion and elegance and line and form.

'The Coke bottle is interesting, because it stands out from other bottles.

I shall be shot down for saying this, but the Lee Enfield rifle was a good design. I think the Bren gun was a good design, and the Bofors gun was a good design.

'These three things spring to mind because they are beautiful to handle and fully functional.' The absence of advertising was remarked on by novelist and academic Professor Malcolm Bradbury. 'I think advertising is very important,' he said. Commenting on the scarcity of women, he said: 'There isn't much fashion, and a lot of fashion was designed by women, certainly early on in the century. …