At its annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in May, the Royal Society of British Artists held a debate on the motion ‘This house believes that a found object cannot be a work of art’. The motion’s obvious subtext was that since Duchamp’s snow shovel the ‘found object’ has been digging away at the foundations of traditional hand-made art, with potentially catastrophic consequences. A team of speakers, including Julian Spalding (author of The Eclipse of Art), made impassioned speeches in the motion’s favour, and even those against seemed so half-hearted that Peregrine Worsthorne was moved to inquire from the floor: ‘Is there an argument here?’
If there is, it’s not one the found object seems to be winning to judge from the recent resurgence of interest in the fount and origin of all hand-made art: drawing.
Alexander McCall Smith counts Donald Rumsfeld and The Red Hot Chili Peppers among his fans, and has a very cool cat. Mary Wakefield talks to him about Africa and ‘reality’Alexander McCall Smith wants to show me his cat. ‘I think he’s asleep in the spare bedroom,’ says Edna, his cleaning lady, putting down a mug of coffee. ‘I’ll go and get him.’
‘No, no, no!’ McCall Smith leaps into the hallway ahead of her.
One of my favourite quotes of the last ten years, for a public display of unintentional black humour, came from a spokesman for Noraid, the American-based organisation which raises funds for the IRA.
This chap had been asked, a few days after 9/11, to comment upon the possibility that people might perceive some similarities of method between al-Qa’eda and the good ol’ knee-cappin’ Provos. The Twin Towers had collapsed and Americans were, for the first time, acquainted with the trauma of terrorism on their own soil.