Working as an artist: part II

On the evening of October 4 1979, in London, Eduardo Paolozzi (EP), his assistant Marlee Robinson (MR), John Hoyland (JH) and Brian Clarke (BC) met and recorded a discussion with lawyer Henry Lydiate (HL) about the legal aspects of working as an artist.

Part I discussed the need to have large studios, aspects of art education, how students are (or are not) prepared for professional life, how to regard social security. It ended with a VAT representative’s visit to Paolozzi’s studio. Meanwhile, Hoyland, too, was expecting a visit from a ‘very beady-eyed’ VAT lady.
Now read on.

JH So I said, ‘Look, I don’t sell paintings in my studio, they’re all sold through the gallery’. She said ‘Yes, but let me just tell you, what if you were a baker baking bread, I might come along to your bakery and find that you’re selling cups of tea on the side – you’ve got a little cafe going’. I said ‘I can assure you I don’t bake bread, and there’s no cafe here, nothing’. So, she came round and I’d been working that morning and I thought I’ve a good mind to say ‘please take a seat’ and sit her in a chair that was covered in paint. But I thought I might alienate her. Anyway, she was very beady-eyed. Now, if you’re a dancer and you coin your own dance, that’s to say you’re not just interpreting but you actually choreograph and dance it, maybe even write the music, – say you’re Nureyev or somebody – and you’re doing a terrific jump and you look out of the corner of your eye and see the VAT lady with beady-eyes just behind the curtains! Does that happen? Do they have to pay VAT on dance?

HL No.

JH Because I always say that being a dancer is far closer to being a painter than, say, manufacturing rubber ducks.

HL VAT is regarded as a personal tax. And is to do with all the goods and services you supply as a person, which is why they come to you personally, and not to your gallery or accountant. In some European countries, France for example, painters and artists are outside the VAT scheme because they are regarded as ‘professional’ people. They are not treated as a ‘commercial manufacturing industry’, but as a ‘professional’. And professions are outside the VAT scheme because the tax was only intended to be for those who are manufacturing in a commercial sense. But in this country you are classed as being slap-bang in the middle of that definition, and they therefore come to you, personally, as a manufacturing industry.

JH This law is completely wrong. It must be rammed home that the very nature of art has got nothing to do with any of these things. If Leslie Waddington – not that he would – were to ring me up and say, ‘Look, all the red ones are selling like mad’ which a manufacturer or his agent would say ‘can you do more red ones? The green ones, nobody’s interested in the green ones. We’re a little low on the orange ones’. Now, if he were to say that to me. I’d probably paint some blue ones. It’s got nothing to do with it. Art cannot be influenced in any way by that kind of motivation. Now, if I were a manufacturer I would go out and say ‘What do people want? OK, rubber ducks. Everybody wants a rubber duck’. Then I’d go round and find out that people like purple ones, they don’t like blue ones. That’s business. That’s why artists are generally lousy businessmen. Some are good businessmen; that’s their good fortune. But I’m a lousy businessman. I’m not interested in business, and yet I’m treated like a failing businessman. Hounded by this situation.

HL Did you ever find this situation occur where you were treated like a failing businessman by, say, the income tax man? Because a lot of artists experience that, when they go to the income tax man at the end of the year and say, ‘I know I have to come and see you at some point and I want it to be now, at an early point in my career when I’m not doing very well’. And for most people that carries on for a long time, if not forever. You say to him, ‘Look, I didn’t make a profit, but I’d like to register with you the fact that I’ve failed, so that if next year I do make a profit you can off-set these losses this year against that profit so I won’t have tax to pay’. The taxman, more often than not in our experience, says ‘No, if you didn’t make a profit you’re a hobbyist, therefore we don’t want to know about you – go away’. So you come back the next year and you say again, ‘I made a loss’. He’ll say, ‘No; because you didn’t make a profit you’re a hobbyist’. Surely that can’t be right?

JH I didn’t know about that situation.

HL It’s the same principle, isn’t it, John, because you shouldn’t be expected, necessarily, by the taxman, to have made a profit. You should be able to go in and say ‘I’ve tried to do my work. I’m a professional, and I didn’t succeed in making a profit; so record these, my ins and my outs, and I’ll come back to you next year and show you my ins and my outs again’.

MR But we know an artist who does that, he files his tax returns every year and it’s always at a loss.

HL But they accept the fact, surely, because they know his reputation.

JH And also he deals through accountants who can probably explain these things to them. I didn’t know that situation, but it’s iniquitous if it does exist.

HL Can I just pick up the thread about ‘hobbyist’? The problem with the tax inspector, which you say you didn’t know about, is that there are thousands of artists who are actually not recording the fact that they’re making a loss – like you say, Eduardo might do that and the taxman says ‘OK, fine. And when you do make a profit, we’ll set it off against your previous year’s losses’- and who are not able to have their professional status as artists recognised. Because that’s going on, the records show that the only artists who exist are those who are doing OK and who have been recognised. Like the handful that we know of. Names that spring to mind are Eduardo, John, Hamilton, Hockney and Moore. Those are the only people that the taxmen think of as being ‘the artists’. Therefore everybody else is just a hobbyist they’re not supposed to recognise. But there are thousands working professionally and trying to make ends meet. That’s the real iniquity.

MR Isn’t it possible for them to fill in a form and send it in every year? They’re surely not going to throw it out?

HL We in Artlaw are trying to get them to do this. But there is another related problem. There are full-time professional art teachers who claim income tax relief against being painters, who haven’t painted for 20 years and discredit the system as well as their professional colleagues, particularly when a bona fide young unknown comes along and says, ‘I’m trying my damnedest but I’m not quite there yet’. That is a great big establishment lie, a social lie, about the income tax and the artist. But it’s also the same lie as the social security lies; thousands of artists are saying, ‘We’re not making ends meet, could we try and sign on?’ ‘No, you can’t’. So they sign on as something else – that’s another lie. It’s all about status, professional status.

JH I’m not too sympathetic to this signing on thing I must admit, because, for instance, my son bought a £150 sixteen year old Ford Cortina with which he became a salesman of double-glazed windows, but he could have become a mini-cab driver. And when you look back on the careers of artists or actors or whatever and at the kind of things they’ve done – the only thing I’m qualified to do, ‘cos it’s a little late to be a brain surgeon now, is to be a mini-cab driver, if I wasn’t an artist. I would rather be a mini-cab driver than sign on – I’d meet more women that way!

BC He always brings it back to that!

EP I think we’re all shying off something very real, which is which definition of artist are we going to go along with? I mean, you can have nine years at art school, that’s after going to normal school. I think there’s no guarantee. You can, as hundreds have, take a nose-dive for oblivion after nine years at art school; and I think that’s right.

JH That’s what I pointed out at the beginning, Eduardo.

BC I agree. There’s nothing ignoble about deciding after nine years that you’ve had it.

EP It’s quite possible that there’s nothing there.

BC It’s possible.

JH The point is, it doesn’t mean you don’t benefit from the experience of going to art school.

EP The strange thing is the nine-year-old ones want to try and they’re desperate to prolong the system. They don’t know anything else. They become workaholics, all they want to do is scratch away in a corner somewhere.

HL You were talking about the difficulties of dealing with the taxman, the VAT man particularly, and Marlee was saying ‘we’ have this, talking about assisting Eduardo; and you were saying, Brian, that you had a secretary to help you with things. So you both have assistants. Do you have someone helping you, John?

JH Tax and VAT I think are completely different. If you live in this country, you have to accept that situation. I’m not arguing with the tax situation. VAT is iniquitous, because the role of the artist has certainly been totally misrepresented within the VAT scheme- that’s what I object to. I suppose, if I couldn’t afford an accountant, which I can’t, I would have to learn to do my tax myself as a self-employed person. That’s part of growing up.

HL Do you think the demands on an artist for all the administrative things like that, that he’s required to do, and there’s also the handling of the gallery, and dealing with all correspondence on that . . .

JH Tax is twice a year, and I think you just have to learn to deal with it.

HL But do you think of all the administration of getting your materials together, organising your studio, dealing with your gallery, your VAT man, the income taxman, dealing with publicity, your travel and movements, any teaching you do; do you think you really can handle and do your own work? It’s a fundamental question.

JH What’s the alternative?

MR The thing is, if he doesn’t he gets hounded. I know it’s really boring to get involved in all that paperwork, but when Eduardo arranged for someone from Artlaw to come to the RCA and talk to his students, at the beginning of the talk people sort of drifted in and they were kind of bored. Eduardo said this is part of the course and you’ve got to go in there. But by the end they wouldn’t let the Artlaw chap go. There were so many things coming out of it about paperwork that had never occurred if they were going to affect them, immediately. And the point that was made over and over again was that if a little bit of time was taken regularly, it saves a lot of time later on. It’s a hassle and it’s boring, but you save more time that you can give to art, if you do that little bit, before you get all these other people coming in and wanting to know every scrap of information about your whole financial life for the last ten years.

HL The writing’s on the wall there. Whatever happens, you can’t go along ignoring everything.

EP What was that thing? They had to pay tax on welfare?

MR There was something very strange that really got us aghast. Something about insurance, for example.

EP If they were unemployed, they’d still have to pay tax. I thought that was the one?

MR Or they had to register?

HL Ah, yes. This is the iniquity about social security. If you don’t sign on and you’re just carrying on trying to make it, and you’re not buying your self-employed National Ins. stamps each week, they come back to you at the end of the year and say, ‘You didn’t sign on as unemployed to prove that you weren’t working; you weren’t buying National Insurance stamps to prove that you were self-employed (and that’s because you didn’t have any money); therefore you owe us the bill for the National Insurance stamps you should have bought each week!’ So that’s why you need to sign on, because that pays for your National Insurance stamp when you’re unemployed.

JH Tell them that you were in Las Vegas

MR They don’t accept any excuse. And. The other frightening thing that came up-for a young artist just starting out – was that some girl got a tax assessment and thought, ‘Well, I didn’t make any money. I didn’t sell anything all year’. She ignored it. And there was a deadline. The deadline came and she continued to ignore it.

JH I’ve had this myself.

MR But she ignored it to the point where they said, ‘OK. We’re going to take you to court, we’re going to get this money out of you’. She said, ‘But I didn’t make any money’. And they said, ‘But you didn’t tell us you didn’t make any money; therefore you owe us the money’.

HL That’s the whole thing about being able to register, for income tax, by telling the taxman, ‘I’m not a hobbyist; I’m a professional’.

JH That’s terrible. Now I understand. I can see it’s a very serious point.

MR If she had just spent 5 minutes, or whatever, to fill in the form, she wouldn’t have had to pay anything.

HL Three years out of college. That’s the crucial period, we’ve found. After three years, suddenly everything starts to happen. You might sell one painting in your third year for £100, and the taxman gets to know about it because a Bank bought it, or something like that. They put it down as a tax loss, deductible expenditure, and the Inland Revenue gets to know about it and says, ‘Well, if you sold one this week, you’ve probably sold thousands of pounds worth over the past three years. You therefore owe us three thousand pounds worth of income tax’.

JH It’s frightening.

HL Talking about galleries, John and Eduardo – I don’t know whether you have a gallery here, Eduardo?

EP I used to be with the Marlborough, but no longer.

HL Do you have a regular gallery deal?

EP No, I just work on my own initiative now.

HL How important, at any stage, is it? Because I know a lot of people (like Brian, who’s been thinking about it) talk about having a gallery. Do you need a gallery?

JH If you’re somebody like myself, quite well-known, there are certain expenses that I’ve incurred in my life for one reason or another, and I now need a certain amount of regular money every month. So the gallery system and a supportive dealer are important. Now, if you’re like Brian and you’re very young and make a lot of money . . .

BC I don’t make a lot! Just a bit.

JH Well, I don’t know what you make and I’m not enquiring what you make, but if you make a lot of money, as it were, you can survive in that situation without a gallery because you don’t have to give them 50 per cent. Also, actually, if you’re very very well-known, like Eduardo, where you have quite a number of markets in Europe which are much more stable markets than you find in London or New York – I mean, in London you’re only as good as your last exhibition. So, I thought that, partly to do with the fact that you had that association with Paris, Eduardo, as a student, and also you were with the Hanover Gallery which was very European-based, never isolated by this island here. . .

EP Yes. You, Brian, are a beneficiary already at quite a young age. We’ve only talked about the domestic thing so far. Things have opened up, as John was suggesting, it’s much more international now. When I was quite young,

BC What John’s just said is actually dead right and I often go on about how galleries are extra to requirements. If your market is entirely English . . . I’ll tell you a story and it actually concerns you, John, but you don’t know it. Some time ago a friend of mine wanted to buy a painting off me. Robert Self had arranged to do an exhibition with me and I’d worked for a year on it and Robert had said ‘I don’t want you to do any commissions, anything extra, I just want you to paint, for a year. We’ll have twelve pictures in the gallery: I want you to design a stained-glass window to go in the gallery window, special size for the window. I want you to do this, I want you to do that, but what you must not do is anything except work for the exhibition’. So I said ‘No’ to every commission offered, and there were quite a number. I designed a window especially for the gallery. I had it made at very considerable cost. I was very worried about getting financially involved with the gallery, so I funded the whole thing myself and it cost me £6-7,000 to do the whole show – apart from the fact that it took me nigh on a year without any income. Now, when this show folded because Robert Self claimed he no longer had any commitment to or interest in contemporary art – he cancelled my exhibition, he cancelled Robert Mapplethorpe’s, he cancelled Swannell’s, he cancelled Boyd Webb; Gilbert and Geoorge had already left – so the whole gallery folded over. Robert had completely shat on me from a very great height. He rang me up and said: I want to produce a catalogue, what do you want to go on the catalogue, full colour? What do you want? I’ve got a printer who’ll do it in a week. What do you want to go on the cover? So I told him what I wanted on the cover. The next day I rang the gallery to say I’d changed my mind and I wanted something else, he said, ‘The exhibition’s off’. I just couldn’t understand it.

JH Do you understand it now?

BC No, I don’t understand it now.

MR But did Self sign anything at the beginning?

BC Oh yeah.

MR Payment was to be what?

BC Oh, we had a contract. I had a letter from Robert to my bank saying we’re going to do a show, we expect it to be a sell out.

HL And this was at the same time that you were doing the Omnibus programme and this was on the film as well?

BC Yes, it was all on film. The BBC made a one-hour film about me and that did help me a lot. It shot the price of my paintings up quite considerably. Exposure does that to one. Then, after this, one of me friends came to buy a painting, Alex Bernstein; he came to me house in Derbyshire, saw a painting and said, ‘How much is it going to cost?’ So I said ‘Three and a half thousand’ and he said ‘Yes, fine, but you don’t mind if I discuss it with Leslie, because when I buy a work I always discuss it with Leslie. You know I’m a director of Waddingtons, and we have this arrangement’. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s rare, you know’, and I thought, ‘Well Leslie knows about art, I mean he’s a dealer, he knows all about these things so he’s obviously going to say yes Alex, buy the painting, you know, you’re getting it very cheap’. And the next day Leslie rang me up and said ‘Look Brian, you can tell me to fuck off if you want but I’ve told Alex that it’s too much money’. He said ‘You’re an abstract painter. It’s a large painting you’re selling to Granada. Dick Smith may be just able to get that much money. It’s the sort of price of a Hoyland – but even lower than I ask for a Hoyland’. He said ‘They’ve both got established international reputations, you can’t ask Alex for three and a half thousand, but I can tell you, if you tell him it’s two, he’ll take it’. And I thought ‘Shit a brick, I’ve been selling my paintings for too much money. I’ve got it all wrong. No wonder I’ve only sold three this week’. So I rang Alex up and said I’m sorry that I said that, Alex, ‘course you can have it for two thousand’. The next day somebody rang up from New York and offered me five thousand for the same picture. And at that point I ceased to take any advice from dealers. And the thing is, it’s this whole myth that I’ve been talking about before; that there is some kind of established price range within which you must work.

MR And, they would argue that it’s related to your age, your experience and everything else and it must be controlled.

BC There’s this whole thing in England. And it does not exist in New York and it does not exist in Milan, it does not exist in Berlin or Dusseldorf, that if you’re under forty you can’t be any good. It’s nonsensical. I mean, Johnny Rotten’s changed the whole of the music industry, and he’s twenty three and what he’s done is infinitely more significant than anything I’ll probably ever do. And I do not see the distinction. I do not see there is any difference.

JH Probably not, there is only one thing, citing the example of those cities. If you’re an artist in Berlin on the lam, it’s probably very hard to exhibit there. Probably you are at a slight advantage if you come to London or go to New York. It always seems to be very hard back home, I don’t know why. Like being a pop group that has to break in America to get back in there.

EP If we can return to the gallery thing . . .When I had a three-year contract with the Marlborough, they took 50 per cent. Also my initial impulse was that I got a bit tired of paperwork, so I signed with them. And the awful thing about 50 per cent, if you’re sculptor and you’re doing some things – it wasn’t always in bronze, I used to have a lot of things made as an engineer by an engineer’s in Ipswich – was that the 50 per cent clip really meant that, with my production costs, I was really on 13 per cent. And I found, after the three years were up, there was no understandable documentation; they didn’t tell me who my buyers were. When I was with Pace Gallery in New York they used to give a list of everybody who had bought things. I suppose Marlborough are much more secretive. I always used to feel like a tart when I went to the Marlborough. Also I felt mentally more agile than they are about my kind of thing. Being a sculptor, part of it could be tactics. Like, rather than having a big sculpture in the warehouse at Roger’s, I’ve lent one to the Fitz-William in Cambridge. But, to me, that’s something the Marlborough wouldn’t have the intelligence to do. They’re not involved with tactics or strategy.

MR But part of the decision was that, without their taking 50 percent, Eduardo could sell half as much and end up financially the same, but he would also have control over who he sold to, what the conditions were, what the prices were.

JH When you reach a certain point, like Eduardo, you can do that.

EP The other decision which I made in my case, which is slightly international, was I took a professorship in Cologne, which is a week a month. This means there is a cash flow without having to get involved with dealers.

BC What you’ve said about this general increasing value – I used to sell my work for fifty quid or whatever I could get – is dead right.

MR So you should be selling for about three hundred, by now.

BC Yeah, by now I should, if I’m lucky, be selling for three hundred.

JH What do you sell at? What’s the most you ever got for a painting?

BC £5,000.

JH A work of art is only worth what you can get for it. I mean, it’s not worth anything until somebody says I’m going to give you £5,000. It’s always a shock, isn’t it?

BC That’s right. Gilbert and George said that, or said a work of art isn’t worth anything until somebody’s bought it.

JH At one time the taxmen were talking about taxing people on stock weren’t they?

HL Yes, that’s right. Wealth tax.

JH As though it had value. Because it had no value until somebody wants it. Otherwise I’d be rich!

BC What Marlee was saying about this entirely spurious idea that the value of your work must rise gradually is very important. It’s the same point Lesie put to me: I couldn’t sell my work for that because Richard Smith and Hoyland sell for this. Therefore my work should be three thousand pounds or whatever. But the fact is that I’ve never had an exhibition, except at Sheffield Polytechnic. I never had a representation that’s resulted in a show in a gallery. So the only way I can sell my paintings is when people come to my studio and buy.

JH You begin to sound like David Wynne.

BC Who’s that? I don’t know him.

JH The richest sculptor in Britain! Never heard of him you see!

HL John, if someone were coming to you, and said to you ‘Look, you’ve been down the road a bit. I’m thinking I ought to find a gallery, I know they’re going to take 50 per cent because they have to (that’s their overheads and so on)’. Would you, or could you, offer some general advice? I know a lot of people would want to hear you on that.

MR Stay away.

JH I think galleries are very necessary, but if you can survive without one . . . for instance, Tony Caro and Robert Motherwell have a lot of dealers, but they’re in the position where they can call the shots. I don’t know what percentage their dealers get, but I’m pretty sure it’s not 50 per cent. On the other hand, if you have a kind of underground reputation and you’re young and travelling light, obviously it’s much better to take all the money. I’m not in that situation. One good thing that galleries do do, I think, is that they continue to support you in lean times – if they’re a good dealer. If they didn’t do that, there wouldn’t be any point in being with them. Of course, with any dealer you feel the draft a bit if you don’t make any money, but they may say ‘Well, we’ve got to cut you down a bit’, but they’ll keep paying that basic amount that can enable you to continue until the situation changes. The other thing that galleries can do for you is that if you don’t happen to be the kind of person who’s a natural self-publicist, who doesn’t really need a gallery (and that’s just to do with personality, it’s not a criticism), they do continually present you in the public eye. It’s like saturation advertising. And advertising works, lets face it. But it won’t work in the long term, if the work doesn’t hold up. And people will fall down by the wayside. There’s a shake down every five years.

HL Do you agree with that Eduardo?

EP There are dealers and dealers. There are good dealers, and I think there’s a history of very good dealers. And if you go to New York there’s a very thin dealer called Kurt Valentine, who was tremendous. And all the artists used to adore him, including Henry Moore and John Piper. He did a lot. But I think there’s particularly a whole lot of entrepreneurs now. Probably in America more than you find in Europe. A fair amount of carpetbagging.

JH It’s a very dodgy business though, it’s like being with the wrong record producer, the actor with the wrong company. If you’re with United Artists or somebody, a very big company; you’re better being with a small company that think you’re number one.

BC Even the most outrageous controversial artists have got in some way to associate themselves with a big set up to get the publicity and exposure they require. I’ve never had a gallery. I can live pretty well off me work. But I’ve arrived at a time now when I really feel I want somebody to fill the role that I thought Robert Self was going to fill.

JH Why do you need that?

BC Just because I actually do not want . . . those phones ring all the day long. I don’t want to do it any more. I don’t want to have to give interviews to tits on the Daily Express.

JH Let me tell you something. That won’t stop with a gallery. I think what it is, if you get down to it, is that you have the same ambition as me. You want to have a one-man show in Paris and sell one painting to a Frenchman. That would be something. You’ve done that, Eduardo. But I’ve never done it.

BC That’s all I want to do. I want to have somebody who’ll do it for me. So I’m on the brink now of making a major commitment to a gallery in New York. And I feel I don’t want to do it. Because I don’t want to sign my life away.

JH Don’t sign it. Just sign for what you want.

MR Isn’t it better to hire somebody personally, who’s committed only to you.

BC Well, the situation is Marlee, that I have twelve people in New York who want to buy paintings off me. I’ve been offered a show that will take sixteen paintings. And I have twelve definite sales. And New York Times have offered to do eight pages, in colour in the supplement, of me work the week of the opening of the exhibition. Therefore everything would sell, even if it was absolutely trashy tack. And I feel I need a gallery there because I want the support of somebody behind me.

JH You may not get it. That’s what you must always remember with a gallery.

MR All you need is someone who’ll do a little bit of the paperwork for you.

JH When I joined Marlborough I was younger than you, no, I was your age, and at that time I was joining what was regarded as being the most important international art gallery in the world.

BC It’s still the same isn’t it.

JH No it’s not. It’s slipped.

EP But then it was.

JH I was the youngest person, I think I’m correct in saying, that they’d ever put under contract. But it just didn’t work out. It wasn’t real. Just let me say one thing to you about galleries. Joining galleries is a bit like buying a house. You’ve just got to go on the place and the people and how you feel about it. Don’t go just on the fact that they’re the most important gallery in New York, because they’ll probably treat you very badly. If they are the most important gallery in New York and you have the right feeling, that’s OK.

HL Eduardo, in that connection, if someone were to say to you that they’d found a gallery and were going to go with them, are there from your experience any key points that you’d tell them to look out for, to make sure that they reach a proper arrangement with the gallery?

EP I don’t know really. Now that I’m financially stable through going to Germany and I’m doing a lot of architectural projects there, I get for one project what I might get for two years with the Marlborough.

HL But what would you say to a young person?

EP I’d give them the old Artlaw routine, never be desperate, have everything signed for, take endless trouble.

HL You think that’s a good thing?

EP Absolutely! I’ve noticed, just to put a foot-note to this . . . I’m in the ceramic department at the RCA and it amazes me that some people have spent six to ten weeks working on a ceramic object and then it arrives in an old cardboard box. In other words, why go to all that trouble and then blow it all or just lose interest at the last little bit? By analogy, if you’ve worked your guts out and done some good paintings, just do that little bit extra and get a receipt for them, and don’t blow it all by being too desperate. Also, basically, I still think that art should be done for oneself. The gallery part is just an extra. The VAT man and the gallery, they’re all a grey fog on the edge of the tremendously vital activity. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but it’s the old spiritual exercise that makes you different from other people. It’s a kind of sacred job, and it’s very important. A lot of things have happened in my life that have just been accidents that I’ve never willed. They have all orbited round the fact that at some point I’ve had some goofy obsession about some image, and the thing’s radiated from that.

JH And that’s why we resent being treated as failing manufacturing businessmen, because this has got nothing to do with the central activity.

HL But the need to show has to be thought out very carefully.

BC Do you not feel that?

EP No, not any more.

BC I really want to show.

EP John, I was going to say simply that it’s a disease you must try and cure yourself of, the need to show.

JH I must say, I can say this honestly, my ambition’s always been to be peripheral, because I think it’s the only way that you can escape the big hammer, I’ve seen it happen with so many people the kind of pressures that that generation in America, like the Nolands, the Larry Poons and all they went through. Larry’s younger than me, you know, and I helped him a lot. But the kind of pressures they’ve had are just colossal. I don’t want that. I’m interested in surviving. I need the money coming in so that I can survive and continue to live my dinky little life, and go on working.

BC The most famous art photographer in the world is probably Ralph Gibson, and he once said to me that he really always wanted to be on the edge of fame rather than actually there.

JH I think – only because I’m interested in surviving – it’s better for you.

EP But what you’ve described John, is a form of freedom really.

JH Absolutely!

© Henry Lydiate 1979



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The awardees for Adaptations 2021 are Emma Edmonson and Lu Williams (Dog Ear), Libby Heaney and Tamara Stoll Emma Edmonson and Lu Williams (Dog Ear) This slideshow requires JavaScript. Lu Williams cre… Continue Reading Adaptations

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This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.