They may not know about art, but they know how to spend £130,000

The Home Office's four abstract works are part of a spending spree on modern art
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Indy Politics

More than £400,000 was spent last year buying art for government offices and embassies - including a bill in excess of £130,000 for experimental and abstract art in the new Home Office headquarters in Westminster.

The Government's catalogue, seen by The Independent on Sunday, is packed with works by the new generation of Brit pack artists, and is likely to enrage traditionalists.

The art for John Reid's headquarters includes a five-metre high revolving structure with green neon lights, commissioned for £35,000 from Gary Webb, and a film entitled Elliptical Returns by Runa Islam, for £35,000. This consists of a screen submerged in water creating abstract patterns of coloured light.

The Government's decision to invest £406,000, mainly on Britain's most idiosyncratic and fashionable artists, has raised fresh questions about the use of taxpayers' money.

Edward Garnier MP, the Conservative Home Affairs spokesman, said: "Nobody expects civil servants in the Home Office and other offices to work in uncivilised conditions. But I would have thought with the Home Office spending only 3 percent of the prison budget on education the huge sums of money spent on art at the Home Office headquarters might be spent more productively elsewhere."

However, art aficionados said that the Government's decision to commission work from up-and-coming artists showed shrewd taste and foresight.

Tim Marlow, the broadcaster and director of exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London, praised the art portfolio. "I think these are visually and conceptually exciting artists to buy," he said.

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