Jonathan Jones and Matthew Kieran will address the motion, ‘The proper aim of art is aesthetic excellence not moral efficacy.’ The debate will be hosted by Melvyn Bragg. For over a century there has been a recurrent debate about the aims of art. According to Leo Tolstoy it should be a means of moral criticism and education, for Oscar Wilde, by contrast, art should be “useless” because its only aim is aesthetic pleasure: “It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility” Today artists often align themselves with ideologies and political campaigns and maintain that the purpose of art is to challenge prevailing assumptions and values. Are they right or are they corrupting art by making it an instrument of propaganda?
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