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Last month, during all the brouhaha about the Damien

Last month, during all the brouhaha about the Damien Hirst auction at Sotheby's Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, Luke Johnson, soon-to-be Chair of the RSA, wrote a column in the Financial Times predicting the imminent collapse of the over-inflated art market. His argument is that in precarious times like this, the true value of commodities will emerge. "Contemporary art," he writes, "has no Hirst at Sotheby's by Chris Beckett intrinsic value in the way a building or land or a stake in an enterprise has." The market value of art is based on as shaky a foundation as the futures market. Plunging the knife further, he goes on: "Contemporary art is mostly a folly dreamt up by wily promoters to spoof those who have limited taste and too much cash."

Ouch. But though there's a long tradition of slinging mud at modern art - from Roosevelt's reaction to the 1913 Armory Show ("That's not art!") onwards - you can also see Luke Johnson's jeremiad as a timely reflection of a more general distaste at the spectacle of artworks achieving multi-million pound prices at auction and the gleeful scramble of investors eager to grab a piece of emerging arts markets. Can that ever be sustainable?

Yesterday Lord Stern of the Stern report wrote that the coming recession could provide a perfect opportunity to realign our expectations of economic growth, that it opens the window - in a Keynsian way - for us to invest heavily in crucial green technologies in the next few years. Maybe these times also give the art world a great opportunity to rethink itself - to discover a new sense of purpose more appropriate to these precarious times. Discuss.

Part of the role of the new Arts & Ecology Centre online launching next month is exactly that; an opportunity for art to rethink itself.

Thanks to Chris Beckett for the photo.

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