Michael Landy: How Tony Hart gave me my big break

Michael Landy: I was 15 when the BBC told me they had chosen one of my pictures for the Take Hart gallery

When I heard about Tony Hart's death at the weekend, I immediately thought of the artwork I sent into his BBC show, Take Hart, in 1980. I was 15, and I'd watched the show every week for years - mainly for the gallery towards the end of the programme when they showed the viewers' own artwork. I must have been pretty competitive even then, because I remember being absolutely sure that my own work was a lot better than most of the stuff on there.

The picture I sent in was of a clown, made out of abstract patterns etched on to a Scraperboard - a pre-made piece of stiff backboard with a layer of silver under a layer of black. I was immensely proud when the BBC said they'd chosen it for the gallery. They sent me a book token, a sticker signed by Hart, and a letter telling me which day the programme was going out.

On the day itself, my entire family sat in front of the television, waiting for my clown to come on. When it did, the camera zoomed up close, to show all the detail on the clown's face. I'm not sure this immediately convinced my family that I was going to be a serious artist, but it was definitely the first step on the road.

When I started at Goldsmiths, I got respect from everyone for the fact I'd had a piece in Take Hart's gallery. And I kept the token, the letter and the sticker in a cupboard in my parents' house for more than 20 years - until 2001, when I destroyed all my possessions at an old branch of C&A on London's Oxford Street for an art piece called Break Down.

I didn't know that Damien Hirst had also tried as a boy to get something into the Take Hart gallery - and failed. I guess I must have been ahead of the game. Hart managed to get a generation of kids picking up materials and making things, which gets you halfway towards being an artist. Who could replace him? None of the artists I know. Not one of us can draw like he could.

Michael Landy

The GuardianTramp

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