Published  05/09/2001

Hello Culture

Matthew Collings’ masterly series on British television (Channel 4) has essentially redrawn the role of the medium in assessing cultural values. An appropriate, 21st century lope through the flowing, eddying pressures of media on historical cultures, the series should have been essential viewing for the Governor (to-be) and Board of the BBC. Once again, Channel 4 has stolen a march. Delivered by Collings in diverse global situations of varying physical discomfort, the unassuming, persuasive tones of Collings led all prepared to stay up past 11 pm into the enforced ‘culture zone’ for refugees of corporate ‘dumbing down’. The series finished on Sunday 24 August. Meanwhile, it was still possible to have caught Collings’ excellent tribute to the late David Sylvester. This served to demonstrate in a masterly manner Sylvester’s brilliance, as reflected in selected reminiscences and flashbacks. Sir Nick Serota, Greysteil Gowrie, and painter Jenny Saville gave notable tributes. Serota referred to the manner in which Sylvester’s ‘relation with a work of art was so physical’, ‘how he believed passionately in art’. Grey emphasised Sylvester’s great curatorial ‘eye’. Painter Jenny Saville referred to the feeling of ‘how the act of painting David, now he’s gone, must be about painting him, what’s happened to his body’. Sylvester’s relationship with artists was entirely unique amongst critics. He saw, for Bacon, that he must act as some kind of concierge. For Giacometti, he had found the best way to interview him was to sit for his portrait. For Saville, and all whom he encountered, he is irreplaceable whether as subject or commentator.

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