William Blake: Artist, Poet and Visionary
Andrew Graham-Dixon, John Higgs, Selby Kiffer and Shahidha Bari
Wednesday 5 June 2024 | 6:30 PM
34–35 New Bond St, London W1S 2RT

Join us at Sotheby’s for a conversation about poet, artist and visionary William Blake. As a rare first edition of his Songs of Innocence and of Experience is set to go under the hammer, art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, cultural historian John Higgs, Sotheby’s Selby Kiffer and cultural critic Shahidha Bari will explore the world of this enigmatic genius. While Blake was largely dismissed in his own lifetime, his ‘Jerusalem’ has become the unofficial English national anthem, embraced by both the Establishment and the radical Left, and his influence endures, from the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s through to the video games, novels and designer fashion of the 21st century.


Meet the Panel

Andrew Graham-Dixon 

Born in London in 1960, Andrew Graham-Dixon is one of the leading art critics and presenters of arts television in the English-speaking world. He has presented numerous landmark series on art for the BBC and other independents, and he has a long history of public service in the field of the visual arts. Andrew has written a number of books about art and artists – his most recent was a biography of Caravaggio, and he is currently working on a similarly in-depth project about Vermeer. He lectures and tours all over the world with many different audiences and has been a visiting professor for the Guardian Masterclass in Journalism in partnership with Lincoln University, and is an Ambassador for the Princes Teaching Institute.

John Higgs

John Higgs is a writer who specialises in finding previously unsuspected narratives, hidden in obscure corners of our history and culture, which can change the way we see the world. His work has been described as “Absolutely wonderful” by Terry Gilliam and “breathtakingly lucid” by Alan Moore. According to The Times, “Higgs’s prose has a diamond-hard quality. He knows how to make us relate.” His books include The KLF, Watling Street, William Blake Vs The World and Love And Let Die: Bond, the Beatles and the British Psyche.

Selby Kiffer 

While looking for an academic library position, Selby Kiffer parlayed a part-time summer job into a forty-year career in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department. During those decades he has witnessed many changes in the book world, perhaps the most startling of which was seeing a copy of the Official Edition of the United States Constitution that he sold in 1988 for $165,000 return to the rooms in 2021, when it was knocked down for a category auction-record price of $43,000,000. He is currently the International Senior Specialist for the Department.

Shahidha Bari 

Shahidha Bari is an academic, critic and broadcaster. She is a Professor at the University of the Arts, London, a presenter of Free Thinking and Front Row on BBC Radio 4, and writes for The Guardian, Financial Times, Frieze, artreview and The TLS among others. She’s the author of Dressed: The Philosophy of Clothes, and Look Again: Fashion (Tate, 2022).