Are you a philistine?

Does Tony Blair value Oasis more than Aida? Does Chris Smith think "Dogme 95" is an unusually hard-line New Labour manifesto? A wave of accusations of falling standards in the arts world has broken over the heads of the Government, to add to its troubles with fuel and the Dome.
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The Independent Online

Only yesterday, it seems, Sir Vidia Naipaul, the Trinidadian novelist and Wiltshire squire, announced that he was sick of the "plebeian culture" fostered by Blair and his cronies. Now David Hockney tells Tatler magazine of his concern about the lack of appreciation for high culture in this country, and blames it on the "load of philistines" who congregate at Downing Street and Labour Party HQ.

Only yesterday, it seems, Sir Vidia Naipaul, the Trinidadian novelist and Wiltshire squire, announced that he was sick of the "plebeian culture" fostered by Blair and his cronies. Now David Hockney tells Tatler magazine of his concern about the lack of appreciation for high culture in this country, and blames it on the "load of philistines" who congregate at Downing Street and Labour Party HQ.

While the spittle was drying on Hockney's chin, Sir John Drummond (the former head of Radio 3, the Proms and the Edinburgh festival) called the PM "a professional philistine" with a "fetish" for condemning anything that might smack of "élitism" - like, say, the opera. But there was more. John Tusa, late of the BBC World Service and now running the Barbican, stepped forward to denounce the Government's "shallow, opportunistic attitude" to culture; their idea of culture, he said, was "a Sunday game of football on Hackney Marshes".

As the Government struggled to rise after this onslaught, Melvyn Bragg rode to its aid, calling Drummond, Tusa and Sir Vidia "foolish senior citizens of culture" who listened only to classical music and opera. They were sadly out of touch with the wider arts world, he said, and spent too much time "denigrating the present and pompously pumping up the past".

Lord Bragg is, of course, the nation's number one proselytiser for a mixed culture - for an end of the division into "high" and "low" compositions and idioms. The new series of his long-running South Bank Show will feature Tom Jones and Carlos Santana alongside considerations of Gillian Weir, the organist, and Mark Norris, the dance choreographer.

But is it all equally valuable art? And where does Tracey Emin fit in? And does it matter that the Americans and the French think the Tate Modern sucks? Do we care? Are we complacent? Or do we secretly worry that our modern commitment to the arts isn't what it should be?

Fear not, dear reader. Help is at hand. Fill out this brutally searching questionnaire and see if you're a Brian Sewell, a bit of a Craig, or something in between.

Q: You are at the National Gallery checking out the Tiepolos with a friend. There is a silence. Some remark is needed. Do you say: a) "Amazing, how the eyes follow you around the room." b) "The Rococo virtuosity is astonishing, of course, yet I feel his Venetian murals are closer to the essentially ludic soul of the man..." c) "Mmmm. Nice tits in those days."

Q:What do you think is meant by the word "philistine"? a) Goliath. b) A person who is indifferent or hostile to culture. c) An Arab terrorist supporter of Yasser Arafat.

Q:In your considered opinion, would you say that ballet is: a) Lots of girls who can't sing, and aren't sufficiently pretty to be in movies, prancing about on their tiptoes? b) Exquisite celebrations of the human body in all its supple grace and capacity to express deep emotion, through movement, gesture and stasis? c) Poofs' football?

Q:You have a free afternoon and could go and see a film. Would you choose: a) High Fidelity? b) L'Humanité, unless there's a new print of Les Enfants du Paradis being shown somewhere? c) Nazi Cannibal Slumber Party 2?

Q:Bearing in mind current debate, your idea of culture is: a) The Last Night of the Proms. b) Itzhak Perlman and the London Symphony Orchestra playing "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams. c) Cilla Black's Moment of Truth.

Q: At a party, someone asks if you're keen on Poulenc. You reply: a) "The new Chelsea defender? I preferred Leboeuf." b) "Ah, Poulenc, whose work is, I feel, a bridge between Satie and Stravinsky - who could forget the Adagietto in Les Biches, that streaming lyricism, so French yet so underpinned by New World sophistication..." c) "Depends. Sainsbury's plonk is OK, but the Tesco stuff can be diabolical."

Q:You aren't sure where the phrase "Big Brother" comes from. Is it: a) The title of a David Bowie song, c1975? b) The name of the dictator of Oceania in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four? c) Something to do with Liam and Noel Gallagher?

Q:When you visited Tate Modern for the first time, you were most impressed by: a) Louise Bourgeois's giant spider and the bloke dancing in the buff. b) The bold juxtaposition of art from different eras, bringing Monet and Goldsworthy together in a brief, sublime continuum, an elemental harmony. c) The chocolate cake.

Q:Which élite would you rather join? a) People who've got front-row tickets to see Jerry Hall in The Graduate in Shaftesbury Avenue. b) People who've got season tickets to the ENO's autumn season at the Coliseum. c) People who get on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

Q: As far as you're aware, Badly Drawn Boy is: a) That woolly-hatted git who lucked out in winning the Mercury Prize ahead of Coldplay, who are totally kicking. b) Some attempt at a likeness by Cy Twombley? c) One of those squawky kids in South Park.

Q:Melvyn Bragg asks you to contribute to a South Bank Show on Poussin. You reply: a) "Melvyn, how long have you been doing programmes on food?" b) "I'd love to, although I suspect Bertrand LeBeauvoir, author of Poussin et Le Tradition Classique, might have rather more to say on the later pastoralism." c) "Poussin what? Puss in Boots? I think I saw it one Christmas in Yarmouth."

Q:The last time you were in a theatre it was to see: a) Last week, in London for Alan Ayckbourn's thing about being in the house and the garden at the same time. b) Last month, in Edinburgh for the four-hour production of Ramon del Valle-Inclan's The Barbaric Comedies. c) Your appendix being taken out (Theatre No 2, Guys Hospital) in 1971.

Q:You meet Tracey Emin at a dinner party, and give her a lift to the station. She writes her phone number on a piece of paper. Do you: a) Sell it to Charles Saatchi for £15,000? b) Ring her up for a serious discussion about installation art and the role of the objet retrouvé in establishing a context that's both palpable yet ironic? c) Keep the car for two years then sell it as a Tracey Emin work entitled The Last Thing I Said to You Was Can You Drop Me at Embankment Tube?

Q:If David Hockney explained to you his theory about the use of camera lucida in classical painting, would you say: a) "You're mad. There's no evidence that any painter used images refracted on to a screen. No way"? b) "It's not the facts that are important here, but the metaphors engendered by the theory, and the use the artist makes of them"? c) "Polaroids are best for capturing girls with their kit off. No awkward questions in Boots, you see"?

Q: If you heard Tony Blair say he was utterly fed up with Vidia, would you: a) Suggest he switch to DVD as soon as possible? b) Agree that ageing novelists can be a thorn in the flesh when they take too seriously their role as éminences grises in modern society? c) Say you can't imagine why he should need any impotence medication in the first place?

Answers

Mostly As: You're a bit average, aren't you? You know one or two things about the arts, but you're hopelessly confused, and you're happier vegetating in front of the TV than connecting with passion to the multiplicity of arts events currently available to all. Mostly Bs: You're ridiculously arty, clued-up, au courant, and altogether a colossal pain in the fundament. Mostly Cs: Congratulations. You are a card-carrying philistine. You know nothing about the arts and you have the intellectual grasp of a bollard. Should you fancy a political career, a position in the Culture ministry beckons.

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