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'If you want to change your art, change your habits'


Travel grant for trip to America
Anthony Caro Artist
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I felt I had kind of used up Douch... Dubuffet and... and that, and I thought there was something, and, of course, this was the moment that America was the place where it was all happening – New York. It was... I never wanted to go to Paris much. I had been to Paris, and when I went to Paris I'd never really... because I don't speak good enough French and that, but also... they were all so intellectual; they were talking about sort of intellectual concepts that I just hated. And, you know, what was that thing? What was it they had in those days?

[Q] Existentialism?

Yes. I don't know what existentialism is; I still don't. You know, it's... it's so fucking clever. I don't think that was what I wanted. And I knew that over there, somewhere, it was different; it was happening. So I went for this Ford English-speaking union travel grant and I got short listed, and I went along and they interviewed me. And there were... I don't know who... Robin Darwin was there, but I don't know who else. So there were about..about six of them, firing questions at you. One chap was firing a lot of questions or something, and I did do badly. I came back and said to Sheila, ‘You know, I did a very bad interview and...’ ‘What did they ask you?’ Sheila said. ‘I'll be him and you'll be you'. So... so she... we did it. So Sheila would ask me the question and I would answer and she said, ‘No, you can do better than that... that's not a very good reason. This is the reason'.

Well, I went the next year for it and he asked me the same questions... the same guy asked me the same questions! And of course I had them perfect – I had all the answers because I'd done it with Sheila already. So I got it that year. I did so well that Robin Darwin asked me to go and see him afterwards, and I went to his place in Richmond Park, I think it was... very odd. A little... little house he had. And he said, ‘I want you to become the next... the next teacher... sculpture professor at the Royal College after...' Because who was going? Skeaping was going, Skeaping was going and he said, ‘I want you to... to take the next job’. I said, ‘I'm very interested’. I was very interested in the idea. And I said, ‘But I... I think I need a lieutenant’. He said... he said, ‘Oh well, who do you want?’ And I said, ‘I want Bill Turnbull’. And he didn't like the idea of Bill Turnbull; he wanted Philip King, who was a young guy, but who was... was very popular at that time as the... the up and coming chap. I said, ‘You see, I would like to make this the centre of art... of sculpture. I would like to have visiting teachers like Giacometti'. He wasn't particularly interested in that; he was interested also... he said, ‘I like my professors to have old-fashioned Rolls Royces and things like that’. ‘Oh, God, you're into this style, are you?’ ‘And I would like them to be able to behave nicely in the common room'. And I said, ‘This is not for me; I don't want people to behave nicely in the common room and to be... have elegant old Rolls Royces, you know. I want dirty clothes, serious talk about art and the best people'. And in the end I didn't... didn't do it. I... we were... you know, I... I said, ‘No, it's not for me’, and he... he got Bernard Meadows in the end, and that was... that was the story of that one. But I did well in the interview because that I'd prepared it so much, and so, over to America I went, the second shot.

British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro (1924-2013) came to prominence in 1963 after a show at the Whitechapel Gallery. Keen to create a more direct interaction with the viewer he placed pieces directly on the ground, rather than on plinths, a technique now widely used. He held many honorary degrees and was knighted in 1987.

Listeners: Tim Marlow

Tim Marlow is a writer, broadcaster and art historian. He founded "Tate: The Art Magazine" in 1993 and was presenter of Radio 4 arts programme "Kaleidoscope" from 1991 to 1998, for which he won a Sony Award. He has presented art programme's on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, including a documentary about JMW Turner, and written about art and culture for various British newspapers and magazines including "The Guardian", "The Times" and "Blueprint" He is Director of Exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London as well as a visiting lecturer at Winchester School of Art, an examiner on the Sculpture MA there and former creative director of Sculpture at Goodwood

Tags: New York, America, Paris, Richmond Park, Jean Dubuffet, Robin Darwin, Sheila Girling, Bill Turnbull, Philip King, Alberto Giacometti, Bernard Meadows

Duration: 4 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008