Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

'New is not generally a word to use in politics. It is exhausted before it even begins: it generally means that the user of it has no ideas of any depth, and runs out of steam early on.' I came across this observation in Norman Stone's wonderfully unorthodox 'personal history of the cold war', The Atlantic and its Enemies, published last month. Not that it is in itself a very 'new' insight - more a case of 'What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed' (Alexander Pope). I have certainly oft thought - and so I'm sure has nearly everyone else - that our new politicians' relentless use of the 'new' word at every opportunity is one of the more worrying things about them.

I love visiting the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. Its well-proportioned rooms alone are a pleasure to walk around in, and the ultra-modern art which Charles Saatchi chooses to display in them is always exciting: exciting because of the heady mix of genuinely innovative works and enjoyably awful ones. This is certainly true of his new show, Newspeak: British Art Now, which a friend and I saw the other day. Many of its exhibits are highly original and accomplished, and quite a number of them are duds - or so we thought. Among the latter, lying on the floor in one of the main downstairs rooms, is a very large pale pink object which looks like a carpet made of disintegrating candy floss. It is in fact composed of, among other things, cellophane, polythene bags, lip gloss, bath cream and hair conditioner. The Sunday Times art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, has compared this work to Monet's 'Water Lilies'. I see what he means, but 'Expressions are hurting, move outside', as it is called, nevertheless seems to me to be a very silly object. But who is right? Am I out of touch with the sensibilities of the age? Would I have scoffed at the Impressionists when they first appeared?

Or is Waldemar the deluded one? We will never know. Carl Andre's famous 'Bricks', now housed at Tate Modern, do not, after all these years, seem to me to have become less vacuous. Unfortunately the modern art establishment has us scoffers over a barrel:

the fact that many people in the past have been wrong about art means that we in the present seem to have no redress when we are accused of being philistines.

There is only one reliably efficient service provider in England, in my experience. British Telecom, British Gas, banks, department stores, etc, etc - all manage to frustrate nearly every attempt to get help or information. But the one organisation which never places you in a queue, or thanks you endlessly for holding, or insists that your call is important to them, or asks you to ring later, is Westminster Parking. …

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