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The Mystery of British Culture

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    2001 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dant, Adam, born 1967 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-coloured lithograph on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case LP, shelf 8

Adam Dant's serial drawings are often connected like the atoms in a chemical diagram, and it is possible to follow links between one event and another in any number of directions. His work is connected to a variety of traditions, including British narrative satire – William Hogarth, James Gillray and George Cruikshank, for example – and Dada and Surrealism.

Here Dant looks into high culture in Britain by constructing a ‘family tree’. A row of seductive apples on the uppermost branches represents the highest flyers of British culture, including the rector of the Royal College of Art, a leading gallerist and the director of the Tate Gallery. Scattered below them are the names of well-known artists, gallery owners, theatre critics and curators. These take the form of lesser fruit, nesting birds and, in the case of funding bodies, even manure deposited by two donkeys. The roots of the tree are tagged with the names of influential historical figures such as William Blake, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.

The American artist Ad Reinhardt made a similar pictorial diagram setting out the roots, connections and influences of contemporary art in 1946.

Physical description

Landscape format print in colours depicting in caricature style a 'family tree' of British Culture in the late 20th early 21st century. The.'tree' is an actual tree with apples at the top bearing faces of some figures like Maureen Paley and Christopher Frayling, with the trunk bearing strange, worm like stubby branches. There are birds in nests and donkeys with Union Jacks over their backs. On either side of the tree there is a tract of water (parts of the Thames?) on which barges bearing names of theatres or other arts organisations. Beyond the two streams of water are pillars; on the margins numerous small blue figures hold carrots. Names of artists, dealers and curators etc are scattered throughout the image in a variety of ways in no apparent order.

Place of Origin

London (made)


2001 (made)


Dant, Adam, born 1967 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-coloured lithograph on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'The Mystery of British Culture. Here Shewn In Part As A Visual Depiction ov [sic] the Various Sections ov [sic] this Particular Tome. / Adam Dant 2001 / Adam Dant / 5/40'
Title; signature and date; edition number

'ADAM DANT 2001'
Signed and dated within the image as part of the print in capital letters.

'Adam Dant 6/40'
Signed in pencil in the Pillar on the right.

The names of the individuals included in the image, reading roughly left to right in descending rows are:
Christopher Frayling, Maureen Paley, Philip Dodd, Michael Craig Martin, Nicholas Serota, Gilbert and George;
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Sadie Coles, Paul Hedge, Jake Miller, Will Ramsey, Mary Jane Aladrin;
Laura Godfre Isaacs, Martin Creed, Jay Jopling, David Shrigley, Moti Roti;
Fig One, National Theatre, John Statton, Will Alsop, Underwood Street, George Walden, John Tusa, David Lee, Stuckists, Angela Flowers, Bob& Roberta Smith, Adam Dant;
Royal Court, R.S.C. Art Angel,
Bush [Theatre], Peter Jenkinson Walsall, Donmar, Stephen Snoddy, Milton Keynes, Jeremy Deller, Emma Kay, John Keane, Michael Landy, Paul Noble, Baltic, Sune Nordgren;
Almeida, Eddie Berg, Fact, Douglas Gordon, Gavin Turk, Noble & Webster, Damien Hirst;
Tracey Emin, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Forced Entertainment;
Cerith Wyn Evans, Mark Wallinger, Dan Hays, Bank, Grayson Perry, Graham Fagin, Matthew Higgs,BBC, Cap Gemini, The Lottery, Turner, Hogarth, Blake, Dali, Nauman, Beuys, Duchamp, Warhol, Bloomberg, Bloomberg, Becks, Riley, Black Freud, Bacon, Hockney, Grost, Wentworth, Metzger.


Height: 56.9 cm printed surface, Width: 74.6 cm printed surface, Height: 69.9 cm sheet, Width: 86.6 cm sheet

Descriptive line

Adam Dant: The Mystery of British Culture, 2001. Colour lithograph of a 'family tree' of contemporary British art.


Paper; Printing ink; Watercolour


Lithography; Hand-colouring

Subjects depicted

Contemporary art; Culture; History; Family tree


Caricatures & Cartoons; Comics & Comic Strips; Illustration; Portraits; Prints

Production Type

Limited edition


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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