Brian Sewell – one of Britain’s greatest living critics and possibly one of the most controversial – came to Kensington Central Library on Thursday 21 February 2013. He was interviewed by Michael Volpe, Opera Holland Park’s General Manager. It was a fantastic evening and in case you missed it don’t worry as the interview was filmed. Over to Michael Volpe to tell us more….
Brian Sewell in conversation with Michael Volpe
In these short films, we present highlights of an evening in conversation between Brian Sewell, art critic and author and myself. I have known Brian for over twenty years, dealing with him both as art critic and as an author for our in-house publications at Opera Holland Park. I never doubted Brian’s ability to engage an audience – he has made a career of that – but the evening revealed a deeper and more nuanced personality that the public rarely see.
The films present a clear-eyed Sewellian view of the arts world at large, the Arts Council, museums, the education system and a plethora of other subjects. He is never shy of giving his views and as one might expect, expresses them beautifully (and with an acute comic timing too!). Sewell is revealed as a passionate advocate for art and art history, possessing a fierce commitment to connoisseurship and a deep reluctance to have any truck whatsoever with cultural vacuity.
The discussion lasted nearly two hours with questions; we present a selection of threads from the evening and in total the films last approximately 45 minutes.
The 5th and penultimate book that I tackled on the Booker List was Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home. This is the shortest read out of all six, a mere 140 pages.
Set in the south of France, two couples who are renting a villa discover one morning a young woman in their swimming pool. This stranger is soon infiltrating their lives and testing everyone’s emotions. Who is this girl and what is she doing here?
In my opinion, the only good thing about this book was that it was mercifully short. I really do question why this book was even long-listed. I think that this author was trying to write like Salinger and create this real one-off character (the main protagonist), somebody that is volatile, vulnerable yet calculating. But I don’t feel this works; in fact it felt like the book was sucking the energy out of me! It is only my opinion at the end of the day and I do hope that other readers get something out of it.
Sadly I could not get to read all six books by tonight’s announcement! Am halfway through Wolf Hall (very good), but most people have been very effusive about Hilary Mantel’s follow up, Bring up the Bodies. The front cover is very captivating.
I was dreading this year’s crop but actually I am very glad that I have read them. I got to hang out in a Bombay opium den, excavated a pond in Malaysia, stood on a ferry gazing at the Hook of Holland and watched a woman in North London awaken after 50 years.
My personal favourite is The Lighthouse by Alison Moore – her characters are still stuck inside my head. However I do think that panel will opt for one of the Bookies favourites: Bring up the Bodies (Mantel) or Umbrella (Self).