CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE - INTELLIGENCE2. Would you call the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel art or ad?

"Real artists work in advertising not in the fine arts." That was the motion proposed by John Hegarty, the worldwide creative director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Karen Wright, the editor of Modern Painters, and Brian Sewell, the Evening Standard's super-plummy art critic, at a debate organised by Intelligence2 last week at the Royal Geographical Society.

The motion was opposed by David Lee, the editor of The Jackdaw, Nicholas Bagshawe, an art dealer and lecturer, and Alison Jackson, the artist responsible for the striking black-and-white photographs used in Mother's Schweppes campaign. And the debate was chaired by the ubiquitous Peter York, "cultural commentator, style guru, brand consultant" (according to the literature).

The line-up was good, the subject matter compelling. All in all, the event had all the makings of a good evening. Hegarty kicked off. His point of view was neatly illustrated: "In 1508, Pope Julius commissioned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel ..." His argument was that the church, then at the height of its power, was a mighty corporation that needed to maintain its lofty image and attract customers. Therefore, he argued, Michaelangelo was one of the first great art directors: "The church hired him to coerce and convince as many people as possible."

He continued that art's function is to reflect and to inspire, which advertising does a lot more effectively than "unmade beds" or "pickled sheep". Good point. His was the first of many references throughout the debate to the work of Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst - a more sophisticated debate would have moved on to less obvious contemporary artists. The mention of Emin inspired one unruly member of the audience to boo, repeatedly. The heckler managed to lower the tone of the debate, but it was heading that way without her.

Those against the motion believed that art was watchable again and again, distinguishing it from advertising. Bagshawe argued that true art inspired a "profundity of sensation" that advertising does not. Jackson believed that because creatives write to a brief they don't have the freedom to be true artists.

Sadly, an ill-positioned microphone and a strange Loyd Grossman-esque accent conspired to render Wright's point of view incomprehensible. Those of Sewell were funny, but basic. Broadly, he hates the Arts Council and contemporary art, and compared the latter to a rotting corpse.

The addresses ended, finally, and the panel was opened up to questioning.

It was all a little mundane until a young American at the back of the hall stood up, said his name and that he was from a merchant bank. He asked the panel if they didn't feel the motion was flawed: that real artists work in both areas. He was quashed with a patronising volley from York, who told him that that was the nature of a debate.

However, the young American's were some of the only wise words spoken all evening. The debates had been poorly argued. The fact that they were arguing for the sake of arguing was too apparent.

In the final vote, the artists won the night by a landslide. "So what?" about summarises the emotions of this member of the audience over the result.

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