There is a view of art that places it at the top of human endeavours, represented I suppose by people like Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rembrandt. However the existence of such elevated work does not invalidate art produced by us lesser mortals.

Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said, in response to a question about why America had such high levels of violence, “because you have such awful wallpaper”. This seemingly flippant response masks an essential truth, enumerated recently on TV by Stephen Fry, that we seem to be the only species able to make the place uglier by our efforts. Not everything we do of course – I think the sublime qualities of the English countryside must surely count as one of the greatest artistic achievements of all time.

Nevertheless, the environment we create for ourselves is often impoverished and at worst downright ugly - even unhealthy. We know as a race we can do better.  The challenge is to create the conditions in which that can happen. Artists surely have a part to play and while a 21st Century Michaelangelo would be nice we can't rely on that so it will depend on all of us to raise our sights - at least occasionally - from the cashbook to the world around us.

[Cross posted here]