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Letter: Understanding art

JASON REESE (letter, 11 March) misses the point of David Rodway's justified complaint, in relation to The Angel of the North, about the amateurism of art criticism (letter, 9 March)

That the public or officialdom takes an interest in art doesn't mean it understands it - look at the derision once heaped on Impressionism and Modernism, and praise for mawkish and moribund Salon works. Nor is the unfashionable claim that art needs special knowledge about perception and creativity necessarily anti-democratic and a denial of art's capacity to embrace the interests of the ordinary person. Real democracy consists not in a philistine free-for-all, but in providing the education and culture to equip all with the skills in perception, reasoning and philosophy for assessing the assertions of experts - skills as vital in art as the rest of life.

The supposition that artistic meaning and quality speak directly or transparently, without mediation, is common yet naive. If engineers don't entrust evaluation of the reliability or functional properties of their structures to the uninformed, why should art be any different?


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