Is it arrogant to take 'moronic' children to an art gallery?

Aug 4, 2014

Showing a Pollock painting to a child is just a waste of time, claims artist Jake Chapman

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

British artist Jake Chapman claims that taking children to art galleries is a "total waste of time" and parents are "arrogant" if they think their children can grasp the complexities of works such as Jackson Pollock's drip paintings or Mark Rothko's abstract squares.

He told the Independent on Sunday that standing a child in front of such artworks is an insult to the artist. "It's like saying... it's as moronic as a child," he said. "Children are not human yet."

Chapman rejected any link between simple artworks by people such as Henri Matisse and the basic art skills possessed by children. "There is no connection. Anyone who says there is, is less than a village idiot."

He referred to Pablo Picasso's statement that it took him "four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child".

But Anthony Gormley, whose works include the Angel of the North, told The Times that he disagreed with Chapman "pretty fundamentally".

He added: "I don't think art is to be understood – it's to be experienced. Jake is an agent provocateur. Children experience things in a far more direct way than we do. I would say that art allows us to connect with those parts of ourselves which are not educated."

Stephen Deucher, director of The Art Fund, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If you can walk and you can look, you can get something from a work of art. Can a child appreciate a work of art deeply? Yes, of course they can. Can they understand it... as well as their parents? Probably not."

Beth Schneider, from the Royal Academy of Arts, London, also joined the debate. "No one would say you shouldn't take a child to a science or natural history museum because they don't understand what they're seeing at the level of the greatest in the world," she said. "Everyone comes at their own level."

Chapman was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2003, together with his brother Dinos. Their exhibit included Death, a sculpture of two blow-up dolls engaged in oral sex, and Sex, a bronze sculpture of mutilated bodies bound to a tree, with maggots, flies and rats running over the bark.

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