Simon Wilson, curator of interpretation at the Tate Gallery, puts the case for three of this year's Turner Prize shortlist and Brian Sewell, art critic for the 'Evening Standard', argues against

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The Independent Online
Damien Hirst's

Away From The Flock

The case for: "It works at lots of different levels. The first level to think about is that it's an image of a sheep - not painted, or sculpted, but presented as art so what you have there is a new way of bringing reality into the art gallery. Many people's reaction is: 'So what, it's just a dead sheep in a tank.' But it's not any old sheep. It's actually a lamb in a particular pose. It looks frightened: it's got its head tilted back and its ears are laid flat. It looks incredibly cute at first, but it's in a tank similar to those used in laboratories. Hirst's work is partly a comment on the way we study the natural world by killing and preserving it. The title also has sinister connotations: this lamb has strayed from the flock and bam, it's dead. It suggests notions of sin and Christ as the good shepherd."

The case against: "I don't think of it as art. I don't think pickling something and putting it into a glass case makes it a work of art. You might as well try it with a tea-cosy or milk bottle. It is no more interesting than a stuffed pike over a pub door. Indeed there may well be more art in a stuffed pike than a dead sheep. I really cannot accept the idiocy that 'the thing is the thing is the thing', which is really the best argument they can produce. It's contemptible."

Mona Hatoum's

Corps Etranger

The case for: "Mona Hatoum's work is about finding new ways of dealing with reality in art. In Corps Etranger she's using video and modern medical technology to present reality in a new way. The work consists of a minimalist piece of architecture with two narrow entrances opposite each other. In the middle there is a circular image on the floor showing what at first one sees as a beautiful pattern of colours. Then you realise it's the inside of a human body. At the same time you're hearing these extraordinary sounds, of blood rushing through veins and air whistling in and out of lungs. It reveals the inside of the body, whereas mostly art has concentrated until now on the outside. It also has a social agenda to do with the way the female body is viewed. For men, it can be a prurient or threatening experience. When the endoscope plunges into the orifices, one feels drawn in as well."

The case against: "I think stuffing medical instruments up your backside and fanny and down your throat, then taking photographs and saying this is art is a manifest absurdity, and the Tate ought to be thoroughly ashamed of itself. I would like an articulate defence of that as a work of art from Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, himself. I don't want to hear from any of his minions. If he's going to stuff that new building on the South Bank [the proposed Bankside Tate] with that kind of thing, then the project should be stopped at once."

Mark Wallinger's

A Real Work of Art

The case for: "This is to do with a similar issue: the relationship between art and reality. Mark Wallinger is fascinated by the idea of creating a work of art which is no different from the reality it represents. A great deal of his work is about horse racing because he sees that world as an amazing microcosm of British society, with class, money and power writ large. It also raises the issue of bloodlines and breeding seen in both racehorses and the English class system."

The case against: "That's just absurd. If anything is a real work of art, it's the wild fox I saw in the street this morning. That was beautiful. That gave a lift to my spirit such as I've not had in donkey's years. These people are encouraged by the Serotas of this world to believe they are artists. Somebody should slap them down. There's quite clearly a conspiracy. I don't mean that in a sinister sense, but there's no doubt that all major exhibition spaces in London are in unison over this and most art critics are on the bandwagon."

Interviews by

Marianne Macdonald