British art comes under the spotlight at Cheltenham Literature Festival

Martin Parr and David Mach will be among speakers at the prestigious event


The BBC’s arts editor, Will Gompertz, will lead a series of talks, discussions and interviews at the Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. The Story of British Art series forms part of the festival’s art, design and architecture strand, which will also feature discussions with the artists Martin Parr and David Mach.

The theme of this year’s festival, which runs from 8-15 October, is Who Do We Think We Are?, questioning what it means to be British in the current period of political turmoil.

Gompertz’s series will address British art and social history ranging from the Pre-Raphaelites, William Blake, Gainsborough and Turner to David Hockney and Paul Nash to Parr, Tracey Emin and Banksy.

Mach, meanwhile, will give the talk Redefining Spaces: The Power of Public Art. “Public art has had a big effect on us all,” Mach tells The Art Newspaper. “Its big advantage? It can claim design and engineering, architecture, bridges and buildings in its portfolio, and these things are in our faces. They're in our everyday lives whether we like it or not; its influence on our lives is great. Art in general tends to hide itself away; it lives in ‘special’ places. Public art roughs it out in the real world; it doesn't have those special needs.”

In addition to the British Art series, the festival’s art and design strand will include talks by Tristram Hunt, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum; the architect Richard Rogers; and the journalist Andrew Marr.

Gompertz is one of five guest curators who have been brought in to refresh the festival, which was established in 1949; the others are the author Nikesh Shukla, the writer Sarah Moss, the Labour MP Jess Phillips and Robin Niblett, the director of the think tank Chatham House.

Others appearing include Salman Rushdie, Russell Brand, Roddy Doyle, Armando Iannucci, Ian Rankin, Michael Parkinson and Twiggy.