Letter: Avant garde

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While I read with great interest the piece by Philip Hensher "If this is great art, how can it be reduced to a joke?" (11 March) I cannot help feeling he has got matters back to front.

Writing about the work of the conceptual artist Gillian Wearing, and the tendency for her ideas to be heavily borrowed by the advertising industry, he seemed to feel that the solution is for her art to become more complex, and thus less easily borrowed.

Having your ideas borrowed is the whole point. The artist's function within society is surely to act as an agent for cultural reconnaissance, to look at avenues we might wish to wander down.

The only dilemma comes when the plagiarism affects your ability to command a market price. That difficulty is caused by treating art as commodity. But it isn't the fault of the art itself.

The commercial rot in the art world has gone too far for us to stop it (it is, after all, nearly as old as art itself), and the only correction left is by way of public money being given to artists. Which is presumably why we have national collections.

The logical conclusion to this economic quadrille is to tax the advertising industry itself; a tariff could be set up for how often they raided the ideas from our cultural storehouse.


Llandinam, Powys