Talking Balls 2: ‘artspeak’

“These images represent the juxtaposition of the timeless and majestic elegance of nature’s sensory-surpassing miracles with the entangled and growing tensions of our time in culturally reconnecting with the shift away from the human condition of love.”

You know what this is, don’t you?
It’s the first sentence of an ‘artist’s statement’, the artist in this case being photographer John Kilar. (Apologies, John; I’m not picking on you out of personal spite, just by way of a bone-idle, half-assed Google search; you are very, very far from being alone.)
A couple of John’s photos accompanying said statement:

“In giving careful attention to the mediating filters that propagates socially-constructed irreverence, I aim to address the necessity of breaking down the symbolic paradigms of understanding to revisit the overlooked empathy for humanity…”

Ah, now I get it.
That’s not just a lardy fry-up; he’s not just a raving lunatic with a Messiah complex: they’re ‘symbolic paradigms’.
Read the whole thing here: pay particular attention to the comments; is Mr/Ms ‘rien de le monde’ (sic) for real?

“…a glimpse into the unmanaged consciousness that searches for meaning amongst the chaotic jumble of stigma, tropes, tenets, and tradition…”

Or taking the piss, big-style?
How very postmodernly ambiguous.

I was inspired in my seconds-long quest by a great article at artinfo.com pondering on the past and future of International Art English, aka ‘artspeak’, or as I prefer to call it, ‘bollox’.
It, IAE, consists in the main of pseudo-sub-Derridean-esque-ian drivel which, from my own observations, must increase in inverse proportion to the quality of the artwork to which it is attached, and which, as Richard Feynman once famously said of quantum mechanics, “nobody understands”.

Understanding, of course, not being the point; the ‘democratisation’ of art, the great post-modern, defiantly anti-modenist ‘project’ – “we’re all artists now” – has run concurrently with increasing obfuscation and obscurantism in the way we talk about art. So banal is so much ‘art’, it must rely on words in the form of arcane/portentous titles and mystifying accompanying text, convoluted exegesis, to give it any heft whatsoever; ie, to compensate for shocking levels of mediocrity.
There is nothing ‘democratic’ in this; impenetrable bamboozling jargon is always exclusive and elitist, in whichever sphere it operates.

Of course, it’s terribly easy (and fun) to parody this type of discourse, as was shown by Charisma Robot’s Bottom Boom in my last post.
And remember the Sokal Affair? A ‘postmodern essay’, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, was cobbled together randomly from “…grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense… structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics]…”
It was created to prove a point; hilariously, it was accepted for publication; rightly, the shit hit the fan.

Yet back here in ‘Art’, the crap goes on. And on.
This is not a good thing.
For one thing, you can still get away with misogynistic, ‘titillating’ rubbish, if you frame it ‘right':

“Though the subject itself is revealing and seducing, the intimately intertwined images weave the viewpoint and gaze in such a way that the work becomes less an open seduction and more a psychological game of voyeurism and ways of looking.”

This from the blurb accompanying the work of Lee Horyon; and you know what I thought about that. “Ways of looking”: reference John Berger obliquely, and it’s alright, mate; it’s cool. We dig.

Happily, I reckon the game may well be up. Or it will be if the rather marvellous artybollocks generator has anything to do with it.
Dipping into the Golden Treasury of Delight that is the Museum of Bad Art, I officiated at a marriage made in the Ninth Circle of Art Hell:

Circus of Despair (yes, really) by Someone From Whom All Art Materials Must Be Forever Withheld:

“My work explores the relationship between Critical Theory and life as performance. With influences as diverse as Munch and Frida Kahlo, new tensions are created from both opaque and transparent structures. Ever since I was a pre-adolescent I have been fascinated by the ephemeral nature of the universe. What starts out as hope soon becomes debased into a dialectic of defeat, leaving only a sense of failing and the inevitability of a new beginning. As shimmering phenomena become distorted through diligent and diverse practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the inaccuracies of our existence.”

Fabulous. I could do this all day.
But my point is serious: language, words, are, I firmly believe, the greatest tools for good or ill that we have; it matters, more than anything, how and to what ends we use them. Use language disingenuously, without clarity, honesty and forethought, and you make the world just that little bit shittier.
‘Art’ is a language and it speaks for itself; if it cannot, maybe it should keep go away and keep its gob firmly shut.

Sharks ‘n’ Sh*t… (lest we forget)

Right. Where were we?
Ah, yes: “disaffected cynicism”.
(And, in case you’re just about to have your tea, a healthy dose of the scatological.)

It’s a good while since I dusted off my All-Purpose-ArtiBollox-Detector™ (with optional Nut-Crusher) and went Damien-bashing; I began to think it was tediously easy; more to the point, post the monumental display of unbridled hubris that was the Gagosian/Hirst collaboration and then those appalling new ‘paintings’, every bugger was at it.
I hate a bandwagon. So much so, I actively sought out positive reviews. Just for the change.
“Poor Damien. He’s alright, really. I’d buy him a pint.”

Then I remembered: he’s made, like, a gazillion quid from getting other sackless sods to make shite.
He can buy me a pint.

Instrumental in returning me to my senses was a quote in last week’s Guardian from the late, great Robert Hughes (yes, him again; you can’t have too many Hughes quotes):

“The publicity over the shark created the illusion that danger had somehow been confronted by Hirst, and come swimming into the gallery, gnashing its incisors. Having caught a few large sharks myself off Sydney, Montauk and elsewhere, and seen quite a few more over a lifetime of recreational fishing, I am underwhelmed by the blither and rubbish churned out by critics, publicists and other art-world denizens about Hirst’s fish and the existential risks it allegedly symbolises.
One might as well get excited about seeing a dead halibut on a slab in Harrods food hall.”

Ya see?
Degrees of separation between Hirst and experience; between Hirst and authenticity; between Hirst and the real world. What kind of deluded, lily-livered namby-pamby wuss are you, Jonathan Jones, – “No encounter with a contemporary work of art has ever thrilled me like the day I walked into the Saatchi Gallery in 1992 and saw a tiger shark’s maw lurch towards me…” (you lurched towards it, by the way) – if you sustain ‘visceral shock’ over a pimped-up fish-bowl in the admittedly life-threatening, elemental confines of a London art gallery?
Embodied ‘primal fear’ as felt when viewing Jaws from behind a cushion, and to which the only reasonable response is “Big, innit?”

So, Hirsty, in memory of Mr Hughes, consider hostilities well and truly resumed.

On Sunday, happily, I came across this review, and delicious kick to boyo’s nethers, in Charisma Robot’s Day Trips to the Void blog, which reminded me how much fun Damien-bashing is when you put your mind to it. So moved was CR by Hirst’s oeuvre, she/he spent literally minutes creating this heartfelt homage:
Bottom Boom: A Conceptual Fart:

“Bottom Boom captures a moment frozen in time, a moment of existence, an action, that can never be experienced in that quintessential way ever again. Bottom Boom is a study on ontology and the way it delineates our existence… The wonder of the body in motion meshing with time and existence, having awareness of itself and its death, the waste of lives ever moving in a cycle of creation and destruction. The ebb and flow, the yin and yang, the immorality and the morality bla bla bla bla…”

Yes. CR farted into a glass box. Or pretends she/he did. Or, more likely, got someone else to do the farting. Either way, so very ‘Hirstian’.
(Of course, I could add that this work clearly references and engages in debate with Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’artista (1961), but that would be talking crap, and we can’t have that.)

Serendipitously, (the Blessed Robert was surely guiding my hand by now) I then stumbled upon an ancient (2008) article from The Daily Squib:
“Arse Hole, by Damien Hirst”:

“The painting is part of the Hirst ‘Arse Series’ where he depicts himself as the contemporary ‘anal bullshit’ con-artist that he is.
“‘I aim to paint myself as limitless angular momentum in constant toilet flushing flux. My anal sphincter muscles loosen and expel hydrostatic equilibrium into the anus-sphere of existence and of course stick a dead fucking cow in there too,” Hirst writes in Arthole magazine.”

Tee-hee.
I know, I know…
Puerile, facile, really not helpful. Cheap shots, for sure, with far too much ‘arse’.
But Hirst’ll do that to you.
Anyway, I’ve spent the last fortnight in a state of Olympics-induced beatific magnanimity.
It was never going to last. ;)

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Because it’s Shark Week: Ten Fun Facts About Jaws by Holditnow.

Just calling to say…

Hi! How are you?
Long time no see!

Yes, at least half my life has been put on hold while I savour The Greatest Show On Earth and thank God I’m not Australian. I’m no sports fiend, but it’s so exhilarating, so uplifting, to see anyone doing anything to the absolute peak of her/his ability, whether it’s winning a chestful of medals or recording a PB; in a world where gratification and reward are increasingly expected to be instant and involving the least possible effort, it’s a timely reminder that the best most often comes from long, dedicated, slow-cooking.

That’s Jason Kenny on his way to a gold medal.
I’m (morbidly, not pervily) fascinated by the sprint cyclists’ thighs. Who would win a thigh-off between a cyclist and a speed-skater? Where on earth do they buy their trousers?
Important stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I also want to mark, as so many have, the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn’s death. She remains elusive to me, and, I think, to the zillions who profess an opinion on who/what she was; suffice to say, to a gawky, angular, too-tall, un-pretty adolescent she was a vision of what a woman ‘should be': lusciously ripe, petite, baby-faced, baby-voiced, desired and accommodating.
Then I grew up.

By our youngest T’Art Club member, Dayne Britten.
Very affective, I find.

Finally, RIP the great Robert Hughes, whom I thank for providing my favourite ever art quote. Not this one – you should know which I mean by heart by now! – but it’s pretty damn good too, not least for being applicable to all human endeavour, not just ‘art':

“There is virtue in virtuosity, especially today, when it protects us from the tedious spectacle of ineptitude.”

Speaking of which: nearly forgot: huge congrats to NASA!
(Why did I nearly forget? Why aren’t we more thrilled at Curiosity landing on Mars? Are we indeed suffering from what William Gibson calls Future Fatigue?)
This is MARVELLOUS!!

Again, as in the Olympics, people, just people, being the best they can be, through sheer hard graft and patience, at what they do.
If you don’t take inspiration from all of them someone should check your pulse.

So, somewhat bitty and rambling, but I just wanted to check in.
Back to cogency, sense (really?) and rampant disaffected cynicism next week when, all being well, I’ll be less distracted and emotional.

Take care, and speak soon.

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Really enjoyed this by Chris at Anxiety and Biscuits: A Very British Olympics…

See more of Dayne’s work here.

Laugh? I nearly did.

Time for a bit of froth.

Now, dear readers and fellow-bloggers, I need your help.
I’m on the hunt for Funny Art and Art Jokes. Having scoured the internet (well, the first page of a Googled search – you know how it is) I have been appalled to discover just how little of the funny stuff there is out there.

And I don’t mean Bad Art, hilarious as it often is. You will recall my delight at coming across The Museum of Bad Art and the ghastly treasures therein:

No. I want Art With A Humourous Intent.
There must be some out there.

Of course,  there’s David Shrigley. But even he doesn’t find his work that amusing.

On this he and I are as one.
(I did however find the ‘catocopter’ – very Shrigleyesque – entertaining for about a minute.

I love my cat, but that doesn’t stop me being a sicko.)

And ‘art jokes’! Where are they?
And why, with a terrible irony, considering he’s viewed as the most tragic of geniuses, do most of them seem to be about poor old Vincent ?

“Man walks into a pub and sees van Gogh standing at the bar. “Oi, Vinnie! You’re my hero! Let me buy you a drink?”
“You’re alright, pal. I’ve got one ‘ere’.”

Hahahaha. Ahem. Not really.

And then there are those dreadful ‘Van Gogh’s Relatives':

His Mexican cousin’s American half brother — Grin Gogh
The constipated uncle — Can’t Gogh
His niece traveling the country in a van — Winnie Bay Gogh
His nephew the psychoanalyst — E Gogh

And so on and so forth.
It took me a while to even ‘get’ them. We Brits – equally egregiously, I’m sure, to Dutch ears – pronounce ‘Gogh’ as ‘Goff’.
As in:
His notorious truant Brummie nephew – Bunkin Gogh
His eternally contagious niece – Whooping Gogh   (Ouch.)
His cricketing, ‘Strictly’-winning second cousin – Darren Gogh:

Athlete supreme

I know. They’re rubbish. I’m trying here.

Oh, and for the record I don’t want ‘witty’, pointed jokes. You know what I mean:

“During World War II an inquisitive German officer was harassing Picasso in his Parisian apartment. Noticing a photograph of Guernica lying on a table he asked the artist ”did you do that?” “No, you did,” responded Picasso.”

Or this:

These aren’t funny.
Sharp, maybe. Funny, no.
Unless you’re the type who goes to Shakepeare comedies and ‘laughs’ smugly and a bit too loudly to show how erudite and cultured you are. If you are the type, know this:
I hate you.

So, c’mon guys. Help me out here.
All contributions very gratefully received.
Let’s have a laugh.
God knows, we could all do with it.

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Update 17/6/2012:

I thought this recent ‘Jubilee’ work by T’Art Club member Vincent Lee was amusing:

Check out also this post by Ann Jones:
http://imageobjecttext.com/2012/02/20/in-the-bank/

Getting ‘em out for The Lads: Lee Horyon

(Thursday Rant.)

Lee’s work separates the vague relationship between image and desire.”

“Vague”?
Since when has the relationship between image and desire been ‘vague’? A vast porn industry is predicated precisely on the fact that  the relationship between image and sexual desire is very clear-cut indeed. How else would pornography ‘work’?

Take a look at Horyon’s work.

Am I the only one to find them offensive?

I am reminded of the old sexist ‘joke':
“You don’t look at the mantlepiece when you’re poking the fire”.
Dress it up in meaningless, high-sounding sophistry as much as you like; the fact remains that images of headless/faceless women in poses ranging from the titillating to ‘softly’ (ha!) pornographic are, in my opinion, offensive to at least half the human race.

The last one, with her ass in your face, is veiled, for crying out loud.
This in a world where women the world over are struggling to throw off ‘the veil’, both literally and metaphorically.

Subjecting women in this fashion, reducing them, not to ‘objects’ (all art objectifies, as I’ve argued before) but to detached, depersonalised commodities purveyed to the male gaze is, in my opinion, not something to be tolerated in the name of ‘art’. There’s no denying Horyon’s technical excellence, but art is not just about how you make it; it’s also about what you choose to make. I’m all for freedom of expression – which is why I’m having my say here – but retrograde representations like these contribute nothing; they merely perpetuate the millenia-old view of women as little more than the means to male sexual gratification.
Strip-tease, burlesque, pornography, these works: they’re all the same in their rejection of an equal relationship between ‘viewer’ and ‘viewed’, and therefore equally deleterious.

Compare if you will Rembrandt’s magnificent Hendrickje Bathing:

The National Gallery, London

This is a woman, Rembrandt’s common-law wife, who was both desired and deeply loved. She has a name and a face; she is a person, not an idealised/air-brushed cipher, and is presented to us with all the tenderness and respect that Rembrandt’s matchless painterly skill allowed.
In her complete trust and lack of self-consciousness, she is very much an equal partner in this work.

That’s what it’s all about.

Wake up, Boo!

Just a quickie to mark what feels like the arrival of a summer that knocked on the door in March, only to wander off and get itself hopelessly lost before I had the chance to say hello:

Henley Regatta by Raoul Dufy (1933):

Not the greatest artist – perhaps more correctly termed a graphic designer/ illustrator? – his works never fail to lift my spirits: sketchily light-hearted and optimistic, full of vibrant colour and airiness, to me they’re summer’s mood.

So off with clouts and cares! A glass of something long and cold?
Throw open all the windows and let the laggard in at last…

Oh, and England to win.
(On penalties. :) )

Trouble at t’Tate?: ‘re-appraising’ Lowry

 “Lowry remains popular, rather than important; it’s hard to imagine Tate Britain, which has 23 Lowrys in its basement, mounting a survey of his work.”

~ Critic Philip Hensher, April 2011

“What makes Lowry so popular is the same thing which stops him being the subject of serious critical attention. What attracts so many is a sort of sentimentality about him.”

~ Chris Stephens, Head of Displays, Tate Britain, 2011

How times change! And so quickly!
Tate Britain show to reappraise Lowry” (Daily Telegraph, this week).
In 2013.
It’s not difficult to suggest a reason for this sudden volte-face: like Tate Britain’s up-coming, ridiculously pitched Pre-Raphaelite show, a Lowry exhibition demands little more than a quick trip Up North to Salford Quays with two big lads, a wheel-barrow, and a van.
It’s cheap.
‘Reappraise’? What they probably mean is ‘repackage’. Tate Britain are surely showing Lowry precisely because, like Rossetti and his mates, he is popular, and will, they hope, set the cash registers ringing; will it have anything at all to do with genuine, critical ‘reappraisal’?

It’s all very well to state (Guardian) that the exhibition will examine the influence on Lowry of artists like Pissarro and Utrillo (and, one certainly hopes, of his teacher, Valette), but if it were to be a true ‘reappraisal’, the gallery would have to confront, head-on, the very basis of of Lowry’s much-vaunted popularity – this absurd notion of ‘a sort of sentimentality’.
Lowry’s words:

“To say the truth, I was not thinking very much about the people. I did not care for them in the same way a social reformer does. They are part of a private beauty that haunted me. I loved them and the houses in the same way.. “

(My emphases.)

There is nothing genial and altruistic here.
And this is why I, descendant of clog-shod generations of West Riding mill-workers, have never cared a jot  for the ‘matchstick’ paintings: I never believed them. Far from being paeans to the ‘Grim-Up-North-but-Salt-of-the-Earth’-ness that brings a nostalgic tear to the eyes of otherwise hardened northern hunks, they are detached, gimlet-eyed works (nothing wrong with that; the vast majority of art works are), and thus the very  opposite of ‘sentimental’. Any ‘warmth’ in them is supplied by you, the viewer, reacting to that browny/red-toned palette, itself a fib; if you’re as old as I am you’ll remember the mucky, murky blacks and greys of smoke, soot and more soot. And reacting also to that faux-naïf style, which for me grates horribly: it lends a simple (simple-minded?) ‘folksy’ feel, but in truth that very self-conscious stylisation has a dehumanising effect which in the end is not only, as Lowry admits, unsympathetic, but downright patronising.

So how will Tate Britain ‘sell’ these works? Just by bigging-up, as with the Picasso/British Art show, the influence of much better European artists? (So what? All art is referential.) Will they focus on the ‘northern myth’, Kinkade-style, in the hope of shifting a shed-load of tea-towels, mugs and prints to a heart-warmed, grateful public? And if they do, how will they give due weight to the ‘real’ Lowry, the actually quite interesting stuff? Stuff like this, a self-portrait from 1938:
And this:

Hidden until after his death, this series of drawings sheds a somewhat different light on the public, ‘cosy’ Lowry. If the people of his industrial scapes are rendered as less than human, his girls/women here are fetishistic dolls, trussed-up, sinister automatons (his favourite ballet was Coppelia, allegedly), fantastical puppets, easily controlled; this private Lowry reminds me of no-one so much as one Everard Cunion, familiar to those of you who read the weekly ‘womags’ as the owner of a dozen life-size sex-dolls, dolls being much less “trouble” than real women, and one of which he ‘married':

Disturbing, whichever way you look at it; some might say bordering on the sociopathic.

Of course it’s no secret that Lowry was a, troubled, lonely man with, thanks in no small part to an overbearing mother, a not entirely healthy attitude to women; I’m just wondering if and how Tate Britain will deal with this ‘darker side’ honestly and informatively, because that’s the only way a full-scale exhibition of this, to my mind, decidedly second-rank artist could possibly be worthwhile.
If the show does turn out to be just another re-hash of ‘nice’ Lowry, simply another cash-cow that doesn’t lift the artist out of our comfort zone, then frankly the gallery will have altogether failed at anything like ‘reappraisal’.

To end on a more positive note, because I know that very many of you will love and adore Lowry and disagree with me vehemently, here’s one of his seascapes, many of which I hope will feature; these I do admire for their almost minimalist near-abstraction, and for me, truth:

I have been fond of the sea all my life, how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is. But I often think … what if it suddenly changed its mind and didn’t turn the tide? And came straight on?”

My thoughts and fears exactly.
On this and this alone, LS Lowry and I are as one.



Art on Fire: a Naples tantrum

Do you care that art is being burnt in protest at cuts to arts funding in Italy?
Or are you thinking along my lines: so flamin’ what?

Art? Meh.

I’d have put myself down as totally opposed to any Bonfire of the Vanities, a storm-trooper of the ‘art is a necessity, not a luxury’ brigade, but I’m having to admit to a whole load of Couldn’t Care Less.
Here’s what approximately 75% of me is thinking.

A friend, Tony, recently suggested that the true creatives are the scientists, and you know what, as it stands, I think he’s right. They are the ones who have been and are changing our view of the world, not the artists. It’s quantum theory, evolutionary biology, the glory that is CERN and the like, which have, more than anything else, made us reassess who we are and what ‘is’ – you know, the Big Questions –  and all art has been able to do is follow dumbly, effetely, in their wake, resorting in the main to either banal ‘concept’ or whining neo-expressionism.
As if anyone gives a rat’s ass.

Beautiful Science

No-one, except artists and their promoters, cares if contemporary art goes up in flames or not for the simple reason that it has made itself irrelevant; to the vast majority of people it’s a joke: self-indulgent codswallop or over-intellectualised bullshit. The ridiculous prices attained by the Big Names only compounds this feeling that art is something’ other’, a luxury indeed, instead of being at the very centre of our lives where it belongs.
Meanwhile it is science that has really captured the public’s imagination: just look at the TV schedules.

Blessed Brian: way cooler than Hirst

Ironically, artists seem to be very fond of quoting Einstein. The undisputed favourite, and most misappropriated by the quoters, appears to be:

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”.

Who are they trying to convince? Me? Or themselves? Or is it just an attempt to legitimise their solipsistic faffing about as some kind of intellectually rigorous exercise?
How many artists are, like the scientists, asking new ‘imaginative’ questions? How many artists have anything to say about the world at large at all?

Not that many, from what I see.
We need to get back to understanding that art, if it is to be worthwhile, is difficult;  it requires knowledge, skill; it requires discipline; it requires thought and engagement, not just some cock-eyed version of ‘imagination’. It most certainly does not require indiscriminate tossing off of whatever half-formed notion happens to spring to mind and calling it ‘creative’.

So burn, baby, burn.
The Bonfire may actually do some good if it inspires debate about what ‘art’ is, what it can and should be: something for the many, not the few.
A necessity, without which we’d all feel the poorer.

____________________________

Katie Paterson, an artist who is interesting because she’s interested; more, please:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/apr/06/katie-paterson-cosmicomical-artist

Kitsch in Sync: Tate Britain’s Pre-Raph Rads

What the hell is Tate Britain on?

We’re currently ‘enjoying’ Picasso and Modern British Art, a cobbled-together show that, unsurprisingly, serves only to emphasise the inferiority of the home-grown, and now we’re about to be treated to a major exhibition of the Pre-Raphaelites, sold to us as the work of ‘revolutionaries’, of ‘radicals who did nothing less than change the world’.
Now I’ve nothing (much) against the PRBs – the work is nice to look at (mostly) – but to cast it in this light really is Utter Bollocks.

Rossetti’s Wrestler

The ‘medievalist’ reaction against rationalist neo-classicism and rapid industrialisation began long before 1848, and was already embedded in the post-Romantic mid-Victorian sensiblity: the popularity of the Gothic novel, the great medieval epics and romances, Scott’s Waverley novels; the Pugin-led Gothic Revival in architecture and the rise of Tractarianism which sought to re-introduce pre-Reformation ritual and liturgy within Anglicanism; etc, etc. If one should doubt the essentially conservative nature of this ‘taste’, one should remember that in 1844 Pugin won the competition to design the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, the very heart of the British establishment.

Holman Hunt’s Gah!

Meanwhile in Vienna, as early as 1809, a group of artists, the Nazarenes, had already proposed a return to the values and practices of the Quattrocento:
“The principle motivation of the Nazarenes was a reaction against neo-classicism and the routine art education of the academy system. They hoped to return to art which embodied spiritual values, and sought inspiration in artists of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, rejecting what they saw as the superficial virtuosity of later art.” (Wiki.)
Sound familiar?

Far from being the Che Guevaras of Victorian England, the PRBs were band-wagon-jumpers, late-comers to a party that had been swinging for decades. Tellingly, the Tate sees them as “the equivalent…of Damien Hirst today”; I do, too: essentially opportunists who squandered whatever talents they had in the creation of kitsch. Kitsch is not about the imagination or allusion, it’s about fantasy where everything is acted out; it’s sentimental, falsely nostalgic; it’s “the trappings of belief rather than the thing believed in”, (Roger Scruton).

Burne-Jones’ Wallpaper

As I said, I like some of the work, Rossetti’s in particular: gorgeous to look at, even if his women are built like all-in wrestlers. Holman Hunt I loathe with a passion: lurid, moralising, literal to the point of banality. Burne-Jones is nothing more than decoration, finely-worked wall-paper. But like them or not, noone can seriously consider them artists of the first rank, much less as ‘avant-garde’. Oh, the exhibition will do well; as the Tate cheerfully admits, it will be full of ‘crowd-pleasers’, and this is the point: people will go in their droves, however the show is sold to them – the sine qua non of kitsch is its mass appeal; so to sell it, the show, as something it’s not strikes me as at best disingenuous, at worst downright cynical.

Get a grip, Tate Britain, you’re beginning to tick me off.

_______________________________________

Where I first saw the ‘news':
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/apr/16/pre-raphaelites-exhibition-tate-britain?CMP=twt_fd