Radio Five Live's debate hosted by Victoria Derbyshire yesterday asked the question; what is art and is it worth billions of pounds?

Recent cultural additions including the infamous plinth in London's Trafalgar Square and the numerous collections by Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Charles Saatchi for example have lead to thought-provoking discussions as to what can be regarded as art and whether conceptual ideas are really artistic?

One guest commented that as a painter of landscapes, still life and using watercolour and oil on canvas, this was more artistic than Emin's unmade bed, which was exhibited at the Tate Modern Gallery in 1999 or Hirst's cow head contained in a glass cabinet also included in the Modern. These things can surely be done by anyone at anytime without an inkling as to what creative artwork or talented painters can really achieve?

The argument of art versus ideas is a prominent one. Art dealers and modern artists are thought to be cashing in on the thoughts and ideas exhibited at gallerys' including the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, West London.

But should ideas and concepts be dismissed in the modern world, or embraced? What is the risk of exhibition galleries or art dealers selling their work, or 'ideas', for high prices to people who are willing to pay for it? And if people are willing to buy it, and enjoy it, why do they regard it worthwhile?

Saatchi's Sensation Show at the National Gallery of Australia was to receive funding by the Australian government until investment was withdrawn in 1999 due to the exhibition being "too close to the market" and the value of the work becoming too high. The exhibition was subsequently cancelled. 

This opens the debate to whether Antony Gormley's public plinth project in Trafalgar Square is worth using public money to spend on?

Mayor of London Boris Johnson refers to the £1.3bn public-funded project as, "A brilliant case of people coming to art and art coming to the people." The idea of generating revenue from increased tourist numbers to London and being labelled as a freedom of expression and community enhancing project has helped the plinth's appeal in recent weeks.

However what does art really mean to the nation and who enjoys the idea of public money being spent on a plinth to declare public ideas when people could quite easily go to Speakers' Corner just outside Hyde Park to do the same?

As a former A-Level art student, art in my opinion is something which is crafted over a period of time, with vision and ideas being enhanced by a brush, pastels or pencils creating fine shapes and lines to deliver a noteworthy and poignant image of something worthwhile, like a landscape, building or individual.

So, why is work by Emin and Hirst so valuable to people and what is happening to the market that judges things on aesthetic appeal rather than conceptual value and why should the nation be paying for something people can do for free a few miles further north in London?

If it were up to me, I'd pick Edward Hopper, Gustav Klimt, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet etc any day compared to the marketed, commercial hype consumers are willing to buy and would certainly know what would look better hanging on my wall.

What do you think? Is art being de-valued and should the state inject billions of pounds in to art projects?

Comments

As soon as I saw a crack in the floor being called 'Art', I decided that this view that art is subjective has to have some sort of cut off point. When does something stop being art and start being pointless and stupid.

When I am in the mood and feeling a bit 'arty', I will stand outside the Sainsbury's where I work, stand on one leg with a finger on my nose and claim its meaning is that working in a supermarket drives you mad.

How much for that picture?

Don't even start about the Tate Modern...I hate that place with a passion! If I'm ever in the centre of London and am feeling cross I will pop in and shout at some art and then leave peaceful...a giant spider...three hundred bunk beds...a giant crack?? Hmm.

In my opinion, art is something which is visually appealling...whether it is a painting, a sculpture, a video etc etc. Obviously there will be a variety of opinions, but in all honesty, who wants to look at 250 cardboard boxes in a giant hall?

Having said that, I do think the plinth in Trafalgar Square is a good idea...but whether it is "art" is a different matter...

I had to write a piece on the Tate Modern before, so I went and visited it. I ended up sitting on a piece of so called "art", mistaking it for a seat. Silly me. I would say a lot of the pieces in the Modern are a joke, but my brother's horrified by this and I simply get the "you just don't understand". Forgive me for not understanding why a canvas slit with a knife is worthy of the wall space.

As for such stuff like the plinth - I'd class it as performing arts and from the handful that I've seen - I'd also class it as a waste of money.

I just dread the day when I'm old and my kid comes home, asking for help with their art project, and I find out they no longer study Picasso ... They're learning about Damien Hurst and they need to create a piece of work based on his. That'd be an interesting one.

Comment: Is art worth billions?