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High art, high altar

If high art is the new religion, then we had better watch out

By Ben Pimlott   February 2000

High art is more visible than ever before. Even the aggressively philistine would have difficulty missing the bombardment of arts programmes, the classic novel re-makes on television, the advertisements on London buses which play games with images from art. Every driver on the road to Scotland knows Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North, every commuter confronts a poem on the tube; even the most dedicated sun-and-sangria seeker can expect his or her hotel bedroom to be decorated with images from the Prado.

It was not always so. In the proletarian world examined by Richard Hoggart, in The Uses of Literacy,…

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