Opening the Inside Out Festival, Michael Portillo chaired a panel discussion about the nature of art, its value and worth in the global economy.
The Inside Out Festival was curated by London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange, showcasing the contribution of nine London Universities to the capital’s cultural life.
I was looking forward to this night’s discussion. I really wanted to hear A.C. Grayling. So I was pretty grumpy that he’d pulled out (due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’).
Despite the disappointment, this surprisingly engaging debate soon cheered me up.
Speakers were: Larry Elliott (Economics editor of The Guardian), Ben Lewis (documentary film maker), Nasser Azam (investment banker turned sculptor), Evelyn Welch (professor of Renaissance Studies at University of London) and Julia Peyton-Jones (Director of the Serpentine Gallery).
The evening turned all my preconceptions on their head. I warmed to Michael Portillo (imagine that) and I fumed at the way art was discussed as a commodity by people who I thought should know better (or at least think differently).
But I was most surprised when I agreed with the economist, Larry Elliot. He argued (against everyone) that art was special and wasn’t just another money-making tool. He was the most vehemently opposed to art being used as a tool for regeneration because meant building on shifting sands.
At least, by the end, Michael Portillo had restored my equilibrium and started arguing for radical cuts to the Arts Council. Phew, I could disagree with him again.