Inside Out Festival: Art: What's it Good For?

12 October 2009


Date: Monday 12 October
Time: 19:30
Venue: Hall One, Kings Place
Price: £9.50

Part of the Words on Monday series 

Curated by The London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange (LCACE)

Chair - Michael Portillo
Speakers - Larry Elliott, Ben Lewis,  Nasser Azam, Evelyn Welch and Julia Peyton-Jones

A panel of high-profile figures from the arts world, academics, commentators and economists will come together to debate Art: What's it good for? At a time of turmoil in the global economy, with a recession upon us, conflict in many parts of the world and the threat of climate change, the arts may, on the surface, seem something of an indulgence. But can the arts help lead us back to hope, health and prosperity?

PLEASE NOTE: Due to unforeseen circumstances A.C. Grayling will no longer be speaking at this event. For further information please contact our Box Office on 020 7520 1490.


Larry Elliott has been at the Guardian for 17 and a bit years, and the newspaper's Economics Editor for the past 11. He co-authored with Dan Atkinson The Age of Insecurity in 1998 and Fantasy Island in 2007. His areas of particular interest are globalisation, trade, Europe, development and the interface between economics and the environment. Outside of the Guardian, he is on the editorial board of Catalyst, a council member of the Overseas Development Institute and a visiting fellow at the University of Hertfordshire.

Ben Lewis is an award-winning documentary film-maker, author and art critic, whose films are invariably commissioned by the BBC, Arte and a long list of broadcasters from Europe, North America and Australia. Among his credits are The King of Communism: the pomp and pageantry Nicolae Ceausescu, which won a Grierson Award in 2002, and Hammer and Tickle: the Communist Joke Book, which was premiered at the New York Tribeca Film Festival 2006 and won best documentary at the Zurich Film Festival in the same year. However, he is best known for his series about contemporary artists Art Safari, which has been shown in the UK, Europe, Australia and America, and which won a bronze at the New York Television Awards and a German Grimme Prize in 2007. Art Safari featured films on Maurizio Cattelan, Takashi Murakami, Matthew Barney, Sophie Calle and Wim Delvoye, among others. He also produced a limited edition Art Safari film on DVD, commissioned by the Deutsche Bank for their exhibition Affinities at the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2007. Ben's latest film The Great Contemporary Art Bubble, about the rise and fall of the contemporary art market, was shown on BBC4 in May 2009 and will be broadcast by numerous TV channels across the world later in the year. Ben writes a monthly column on art for Prospect magazine and writes weekly as an art critic for the Evening Standard. His articles have also been widely published in The Times, Sunday Times, Observer, Financial Times and Sunday Telegraph in the UK and Monopol magazine in Germany. Finally, His first book, Hammer and Tickle, a history of humour under Communism, based on his eponymously titled documentary, was published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in 2008.

Nasser Azam (b. 1963) is a leading London-based contemporary artist. From his early works of the 1980s he has explored representations of the human figure in space, using semi-abstract and calligraphic forms. He has also developed a practice that he terms ‘performance painting', notably involving the creation of two triptychs during a zero-gravity space flight from Star City, Moscow.

In 2007 he became the first Artist in Residence at County Hall Gallery, London, and has to date mounted five critically-acclaimed exhibitions of his work. Alongside groups of paintings such as the Anatomica series, shown in Summer 2008, he has produced a number of bronze sculptures that extend his meditations on the human form into three dimensions. His six metre-high bronze The Dance was unveiled on London's South Bank in February 2008. Other sculptural projects include work for the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, in Dublin.

Azam's work has achieved commercial success, notably with Homage to Francis Bacon I, which in November 2008 sold at Phillips de Pury, New York, achieving the second highest bid at the sale at $332,500. Azam is also emerging as a collector of modern and contemporary art, and is noted for his support of emerging London-based artists. He is a patron of the Whitechapel Gallery, London, and a member of the jury for the Sovereign Art Prize.

Julia Peyton-Jones, OBE, Director, Serpentine Gallery, and Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes studied painting at the Royal College of Art, London, and worked as a practising artist in London and a lecturer in fine art at Edinburgh College of Art. She moved to the Hayward Gallery in 1988 as Curator of Exhibitions. In 1991 she became Director of the Serpentine Gallery, where she has been responsible for both commissioning and showcasing the groundbreaking Exhibition, Education and Public Programmes as well as the annual architecture commission, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, which she conceived in 2000. Under the patronage of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Serpentine completed a £4 million renovation in 1998. Since then visitor numbers have increased three-fold to approximately 800,000 in any one year. She serves on numerous committees and panels, including the Westminster Public Art Advisory Panel, and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art in 1997. In 2003 she was made both an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). In 2008 Julia was made Professor, University of the Arts, London, and Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art (RCA) in the same year. She is invited to attend the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, annually.

Evelyn Welch, BA (Harvard) PhD (London) Professor of Renaissance Studies and Academic Dean for Arts at Queen Mary, University of London. Evelyn Welch is an art historian with a special interest in visual and material culture in Europe between 1300 and 1700. She is the author of Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan (Yale, 1995), Art in Renaissance Italy, 1350-1500 (OUP, 2000) and Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy 1400-1600 (Yale, 2005) which was awarded the Wolfson Prize for History, 2005. She is co-editor of The Material Renaissance (Manchester University Press, 2007) the result of a three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council and Getty Foundation funded project on Italian Renaissance consumption. She has recently completed a Wellcome Trust-funded study of a pharmacy, the Speziale al Giglio, in late fifteenth-century Florence with Dr James Shaw (University of Sheffied). Her current work focuses on dress and material culture; Professor Welch is now running an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded network exploring Early Modern Dress and Textiles in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton. She is the director of the 5.5 million pound Arts and Humanities Research Council strategic programme, Beyond Text: Performances, Sounds, Images, Objects which runs until 2012. Professor Welch is Academic Dean of the Arts Faculty and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2005.

Michael Portillo attended Harrow County grammar school and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read history. He worked for the Conservative Party and for government ministers between 1976 and 1983. He entered the House of Commons in 1984. He was a minister for eleven years and had three positions in the Cabinet, including Secretary of State for Defence. He lost his seat at the 1997 election, and began to develop a career in the media. He returned to the Commons between 2000 and 2005, was shadow Chancellor, and contested the leadership of the party in 2001, unsuccessfully. Since leaving politics, he has devoted himself to writing and broadcasting. He writes for the Sunday Times and is a regular on both BBC 1's This Week programme and Radio 4's Moral Maze. He has made documentaries on subjects as diverse as Richard Wagner and the death penalty. In 2008 he is the chairman of judges for the Man Booker prize.




Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.