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Art v books: a critical double standard

December 6, 2009

We don’t rubbish the Booker shortlist, or demand that it should be banned – yet we do when it comes to the Turner prize. Why?

Richard Wright's intricate Gold Leaf painting at this year's Turner prize

Better than fiction? … A viewer examines Richard Wright’s painting at this year’s Turner prize show. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

“This year’s Booker shortlist was worthless; none of the novelists on it has any chance of being remembered in 50 years, none of these books can compare for one second with the great tradition of English literature. Set one of these minor talents alongside a Jane Austen or a Joseph Conrad, and it is clear we live in mediocre cultural times. The Booker should be abolished.”

No, I’ve never read a comment like that about a Booker prize shortlist either. I have, however, read (and written) many such critiques of Turner prize shortlists. But why does contemporary art get such a rough ride in comparison with the contemporary novel?

Critics and the public are prepared to say infinitely more dismissive things about new art than ever gets said about new literary fiction: it’s common for modern art to be mocked as “junk”, but rare for even the most outrageous or embarrassing novel to be dismissed as not worth the paper it’s written on

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 1, 2010 11:07 pm

    Various guys blog about this subject but you wrote down really true words!!

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