My cultural life Sir John Sorrell CBE reveals what he’s reading, watching and listening to this month
An arbiter of taste reveals their cultural inspirations, from musical awakenings to favourite exhibitions
A pillar of Britain’s design community, John Sorrell CBE is best known for cofounding the London Design Festival. The prolific graphic designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist ran branding agency Newell and Sorrell with his wife Frances for 25 years. Since then, the couple have focused on the creative sector as a whole, launching The Sorrell Foundation in 1999, followed by The Saturday Club Trust, both charities that focus on promoting arts education. Sorrell has chaired the Design Council, served as UK Business Ambassador, is a Trustee of the V&A and an advisor to the Mayor of London on Brexit and its potential impact on the capital’s many creative industries. 2018’s London Design Festival takes place this month (see p251 for our guide), as does the second Design Biennale, a coinciding showdown over at Somerset House (4–23 September; somersethouse.org.uk).
The book that has influenced me the
most is Animal Drawing ( 3) by John Skeaping. My father gave me a secondhand copy of it when I was seven, and I was completely fascinated by the beautiful drawings. I tried to copy them. It was the beginning of my interest in art and design. My favourite piece of music is With God on our Side, which I saw performed live at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez when I was a student at Hornsey College of Art. They sang with heart-breaking passion and intensity. My favourite film? I would have to name a few: High Noon, Apocalypse Now ( 4) and
every one of the The Godfather trilogy. A quote I particularly like is one from my wife, Frances, that’s in Definitions of Design, a book I produced when I was chairman of the Design Council. I had become fed up with people asking me, ‘ What is the definition of design?’, so gathered fifty answers from different people. Frances’ definition? ‘Hard work.’ My ultimate museum has to be the V&A ( 5), and my favourite object on display there is the world’s first 3D-printed gun. It provokes strong reactions and makes people think. If I could choose another museum, it would be MOMA in New York. The last exhibition I saw was ‘ The National Saturday Club Summer Show’ at Somerset House, which showcased the work of the 1,500 13–16 year olds who attended free Saturday morning classes at their local university, college or museum. The young people’s work is brilliant. If I won the lottery, the work of art
I would buy would be by either Jackson Pollock, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Robert Rauschenberg or Jasper Johns – such as Targets and Flags (1968) ( 2).
The next place I’m travelling to is Cornwall ( 1). I enjoy exploring museums and discovering streets, but in Cornwall, Frances and I will have a little break and see family. It will be completely relaxing.