News Column

Innocent eyes Jake Chapman accused of art snobbery

August 5, 2014

Hannah Ellis-Petersen



The director of a charity that encourages young people to visit exhibitions has accused the artist Jake Chapman of snobbery after he said taking children to art galleries was a waste of time.

Dea Birkett, director of Kids in Museums, said it was "typical of the art establishment to say we're all simply not clever enough to understand them".

She also warned of the effects of isolating children from galleries. "How many doctorates do they say we need to appreciate Picasso or Pollock?"

Chapman, who along with his brother, Dinos, is known for controversy-courting art, caused outrage after he said it was "arrogant" of parents to believe their children could comprehend artists such as Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko.

Chapman, a father of three, told the Independent on Sunday that standing a child in front of a Pollock was "like saying . . . it's as moronic as a child. Children are not human yet."

Birkett said not showing art to children could destroy their interest. "Kill any natural, joyful response to art at an early age, and you could kill it for life. Then where would artists like Jake Chapman be?"

She said introducing children to art from a young age was a founding principle of Kids in Museums. "At what age exactly does Chapman think we can wander into the room full of Kandinskys? Four? Five? 15? When is that magical moment when we begin to take art seriously?

"The truth is that magical moment is birth. Enjoying art of all kinds can begin at a very young age . . . How much better for that response to come straight from the heart and emotions, rather than coolly and calculatedly from an overeducated head. Wouldn't we all secretly like to feel like that when confronted with a work of art? Wouldn't we all like to soar with joy?"

She added: "Deny access to babies, and what happens to their parents? Are they banned from appreciating art too until their offspring are old enough? Or do they have to employ a babysitter just to go to the Tate?"

Birkett was not alone in her condemnation of Chapman's views. Speaking to the Times, the sculptor Antony Gormley, whose work includes the Angel of the North, said he would not be an artist if he had not been taken to art galleries as a child. "I didn't understand the history or the principles out of which modernity arose, but that didn't stop me from understanding vitality, horror, confusion," he said.

Photograph: David Levene

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, page 28 =



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Source: Guardian (UK)


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