Sarah Kent

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Sarah Kent (born 1947) is a British art critic, formerly art editor of the weekly London 'what's on' guide Time Out. She was an early supporter of the Young British Artists in general, and Tracey Emin in particular, helping her to get early exposure. This has led to polarised reactions of praise and opposition for Kent. She adopts a feminist stance and has stated her position to be that of "a spokesperson, especially for women artists, in a country that is essentially hostile to contemporary art."[1]


Kent studied painting at the Slade School of Art and worked as an artist until 1977. She then became Exhibitions Director at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) for two years, and also started writing for Time Out. At the ICA she staged exhibitions by Andy Warhol, Allen Jones and Christo, as well as feminist artist Alexis Hunter. Another show was of satirical art, Berlin a Critical View: Ugly Realism. Her own work changed from painting to photography, primarily of male nudes.[1]

She became art editor of Time Out, for which she wrote reviews. She is now a well-known figure in the arts in London, and has appeared on radio and TV shows. She also works in a freelance capacity as an editor and critic, and has provided essays, catalogues and books for the Saatchi Gallery and White Cube gallery. She is the editor of Shark-Infested Waters: The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the 90s (Zwemmer, 1994).

She was an early advocate for the Young British Artists (YBAs), also known as Britart, and a strong supporter of Tracey Emin, helping to get her early exposure. Kent and Matthew Collings have been described as "the parents of the popularization process having audiences approaching half a million each" of "the explosion of art into mainstream culture in nineties London."[2]

The connection with the YBAs has inevitably attracted criticism similar to that which is directed at the artists:

Many writers involved in the post-modern world deal in a flip and ironic way with both theory and criticism, for example, Jean Baudrillard or the London-based critic and reviewer, Sarah Kent, so that the line between serious theory and the entertainment industry are blurred. I would define the ironic as a refusal to state a sincere political or ethical stance, or if in stating a stance, to continually undermine this, or to change it as suits. It is the opposite of what used to be called 'engaged' or 'committed' or 'sincere'.[3]

Another criticism is that Kent's freelance working for institutions, such as White Cube and the Saatchi Gallery, whose shows she also reviews in Time Out, is a conflict of interest.[4]

Advocating Britart, she is on the opposite side of the fence from the traditionally oriented critic, Brian Sewell. This had led to personal comments in the media. In 1995, when asked about a suitable Christmas present for him (he keeps dogs), she replied:

I'd like to give him a large tank of formaldehyde in which he can pickle his bitches[5]

Eight years later Sewell commented in one of his articles, referring to a heart operation:

I have made several wills, the first as a young soldier, all of them the precautionary wills of those who do not think of death as immediately relevant. Even on the night before my rib-cage was sawn open and my heart re-plumbed I was prepared to make a joke and bequeathed my eyes to Sarah Kent, the gushing art critic of Time Out, who is not blind but cannot see.[6]

She is also mentioned in the lyrics to The Turner Prize Song Art or Arse? - You be the judge, written and performed by Billy Childish, on a Stuckists CD:

Damien Hirst got his fish in a tank
some say it's art others think it's wank
Sarah Kent says he's doing quite well
you gotta make your art and you gotta sell[7]

The reactions to her mirror the divisions in contemporary art in Britain, and she is praised as a pioneer by Louisa Buck:

In 1992, she was a jurist on the Turner Prize panel chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota. The other members were Marie-Claude Beaud, Director, Foundation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, Robert Hopper, Director, Henry Moore Sculpture Trust, and Howard Karshan. The winner was Grenville Davey, and the other nominees Damien Hirst, David Tremlett and Alison Wilding.[8]

Since November 2010 she contributes regularly to the arts desk: Sarah Kent author page on the arts desk website


Gary Wragg’s huge terra cotta canvases stand out. Sketchy areas of black, white and grey create ambiguously transparent readings of space while chalk and paint lines suggest diagrammatic representations- perhaps of Tai Chi movements[9]
an aesthetic terrorist, pillaging mainstream culture. In doing so she acts as a mirror, monitoring the sexism and misogyny routinely found there.[3]
His work is like the physical embodiment of ruminative thought-conceptual art made concrete.[10]
  • On Jim Shaw's "thrift store" show (2000):
Critics professing to be gobsmacked by these efforts can never have seen an amateur art show or walked along the railings of the Bayswater road. They should get out more.[11]


  • Author: Sarah Kent (Introduction). Demons, Yarns and Tales: Tapestries by Contemporary Artists. Damiani, 2009, ISBN 88-6208-076-X
  • Editor Jessica Cargill Thompson, Jonathan Derbyshire. London Calling. Time Out Guides Ltd, 2008, ISBN 978-1-84670-109-2 Sarah Kent: the Merry Go Round
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Jessica Rankin: So Many Echoes of Echoes. White Cube, 2007, ISBN 1-906072-03-5/ 978-1-906072-03-2
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Uwe Wittwer - Hail and Snow. Haunch of Venison, Zurich / London, 2007, ISBN 978-1-905620-17-3
  • Author: Sarah Kent, David Batchelor. Pedro Cabrito Reis: Border Crossings. Haunch of Venison, London/Zurich, 2005, ISBN 1-905620-00-4
  • Editor Joe Kerr, Andrew Gibson. London from Punk to Blair. Reaktion Books, 2003, ISBN 1-86189-171-7 Sarah Kent: Groundswell
  • Author: Sarah Kent, Will Self, Cathy Courtney, Jo Self. Flowers: Jo Self. Frances Lincoln, 2003, ISBN 0-7112-2219-3
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Darren Lago & Co: Objects of Desire. The New Art Gallery, Walsall, 2001, ISBN 0-946652-58-9
  • Editor Hilary Robinson. Feminism-Art-Theory. Blackwell, 2001, ISBN 0-631-20850-X Sarah Kent: Susan Hiller: Anthropology into Art
  • Author: Sarah Kent, Richard Cork, Dick Price. Young British Art: The Saatchi Decade. Boothe-Clibborn Editions, 1999, ISBN 1-86154-033-7. *Author: Sarah Kent, Neal Brown. Tracey Emin. Galgiani, Phillip, 1998, ISBN 0-9522690-2-3
  • Editor Frank Broughton. Time Out Interviews 1968-98. Penguin Books, 1998, ISBN 0-14-027963-6 Sarah Kent interviews with Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Madonna, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst
  • Author: Brian Robertson, Sarah Kent, Peter Schaffer. Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture. Harpvale Books, 1985, ISBN 0-946425-05-1 / 094642506X / 0946425078
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Fiona Rae Gary Hume. Saatchi Gallery, 1997, ISBN 0-9527453-3-X
  • Author: Sarah Kent, John McEwen. Paula Rego: The Dancing Ostriches from Disney's "Fantasia". Saatchi Gallery, 1996, ISBN 0-9527453-2-1
  • Author: Sarah Kent, Stephan Balkenhol. Stephan Balkenhol: Sculptures 1988-1996 in the Saatchi Collection. Saatchi Gallery, 1996, ISBN 0-9527453-1-3
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Eyewitness Art: Composition. DK ADULT, 1995, ISBN 1-56458-612-X
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Shark-Infested Waters: The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the 90s . Zwemmer, London, 1994 and Philip Wilson Publishers, London, 2003, ISBN 0-85667-584-9
  • Author: Sarah Kent. James Cotier: Nudes in Budapest, Aktok, 1992, ISBN 0-9518630-0-2
  • Author: Sarah Kent, Jean Fisher, John Roberts, Brandon Taylor. Lifelines/Lebenslinien. Tate Liverpool/BASF Ludwigshafen, 1990, ISBN 3-926138-09-2
  • Author: Sarah Kent, Jacqueline Morreau. Women's Images of Men. Pandora Press, 1990, ISBN 0-04-440461-1
  • Author: Gerry Badger, John Benton-Harris. Through the Looking Glass. Barbican, London, 1989, ISBN 0-85331-560-4 Sarah Kent: Taking Issue: Artists as Photographers
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Jacqueline Morreau: Drawings and Graphics. Scarecrow Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8108-1888-4
  • Editor: Claus Honnef. Lichtbildnisse: das Porträt in der Fotografie. Rheinland-Verlag, 1982, ISBN 3-7927-0661-X Sarah Kent: Photography Revelation of Transformation
  • Author: Floris M Neusüs. Fotografie als Kunst, Kunst als Fotografie. DuMont, 1979, ISBN 3-7701-1129-X Sarah Kent: Photography Social and Sensual.
  • Author: Sarah Kent. Hayward Annual Arts Council of Great Britain 1978. ISBN 0-7287-0178-2

See also[edit]

  • Other contemporary UK art critics
David Lee
Adrian Searle
Louisa Buck
Waldemar Januszczak
Matthew Collings
Brian Sewell


  1. ^ a b c Buck, Louisa (2000). Moving Targets 2: A User's Guide to British Art Now. Tate Gallery Publishing. ISBN 1-85437-316-1
  2. ^ "Media Guy" by Merlin Carpenter Retrieved 28 March 2006
  3. ^ a b "Do You Wanna Be in My Gang" by Liz Ellis Retrieved 28 March 2006
  4. ^ "The Decrepitude of the Critic", point 5, Stuckist manifesto, 2000 Retrieved 2 April 2006
  5. ^ "And, on this page, Rosanna Greenstreet asked some movers and shakers", The Independent, December 24, 1995 Retrieved from 2 April 2006
  6. ^ “A Dying Wish”, Brian Sewell, ‘’The Evening Standard’’, 29 July 2003. Retrieved 2 April 2006
  7. ^ Art or Arse, lyrics. Retrieved 28 March 2006
  8. ^ "Turner Prize History", Tate website Archived 26 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 28 March 2006
  9. ^ Sarah Kent, ‘’Time Out’’, 1983 Retrieved 2 April 2006 from
  10. ^ Time Out, London, Lisson Gallery, London, April 3, 1996 Retrieved 28 March 2006 from
  11. ^ "What the Critics Say – Jim Shaw at the ICA" Archived 25 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine., newsletter 2,, 23 October 2000. Retrieved 28 March 2006

External links[edit]