Anthony David Bernard Sylvester CBE (21 September 1924, London – 19 June 2001, London) was a British art critic and curator. Although he received no formal education in the arts, during his long career he was influential in promoting modern artists, in particular the work of Joan Miró, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.
Born into a well connected north-London Jewish family, Sylvester had trouble as a student at University College School and was thrown out of the family home. He wrote for the paper Tribune and went to Paris in 1947 where he met Alberto Giacometti, one of the strongest influences on him.
Sylvester is credited with coining the term kitchen sink originally to describe a strand of post-war British painting typified by John Bratby. Sylvester used the phrase negatively but it was widely applied to other art forms including literature and theatre.
During the 1950s, Sylvester worked with Henry Moore, Freud and Bacon but also supported Richard Hamilton and the other "Young Turks" of British Pop art. This led him to become a prominent media figure in the 1960s. During the 1960s and 1970s Sylvester occupied a number of roles at the Arts Council of Great Britain serving on advisory panels and on the main panel. He was also a trustee of the Tate Gallery, among a number of such positions. In 1969, he curated a Renoir exhibition at the Hayward Gallery for which he was assisted by a young Nicholas Serota. During the 1970s, he became interested in and collected early oriental carpets. In 1983, he curated an exhibition, The Eastern Carpet in the Western World, at the Hayward Gallery.
Sylvester was awarded a Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice Biennale for curating an exhibition of Francis Bacon's work. He was married to Pamela Briddon (three daughters; marriage dissolved). He is also the father of the artist Cecily Brown with the writer Shena Mackay. His daughters Catherine, Naomi and Xanthe all have children: respectively William and Caitlin Sweny; Harrison Sylvester; and Inez and Adam Valentine.
An incomplete list:
- King, Donald and Sylvester, David eds. The Eastern Carpet in the Western World, From the 15th to the 17th century, Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1983, ISBN 0-7287-0362-9
- David Sylvester "Interviste con artisti americani" Castelvecchi editore, 2012
- Guardian obituary June 20, 2001
- David Sylvester, 'Interviews with Francis Bacon (1963, 1966, 1979)', The Guardian, 13 September 2007
- John Tusa. 'Interview with David Sylvester', BBC Radio 3