Is it possible, or desirable, to measure the quality of an artwork?

In a world of shrinking resources, the question of how we decide which art should receive finance is ever more pressing. Rosemary Laryea asks if, when putting money into good quality art is the goal, it’s possible to set criteria to judge what makes “good art”.

Rosemary talks to members of the public looking at – and arguing about – artwork, and discusses questions of artistic taste and judgement. She also hears from the jazz musician and rap artist Soweto Kinch, playwright Simon Stephens and filmmaker Destiny Ekaragha. Tiffany Jenkins makes the case for critics and Barry Smith, a philosopher of the senses, and the art critic Lynda Neade explore the idea of taste, subjective pleasure and expertise.

Arts Council England has trialled a method of measuring quality in the art it funds, called Quality Metrics. Audiences, artists and arts organisations are invited to assess artworks – exhibitions, dance pieces, digital art, poetry, theatre, music events and more – across a range of criteria, and become part of a conversation about what constitutes quality. Rosemary wonders whether this might be a way of finally answering the question of how we know something is good, while Dr Sarah Garfinkel shows that it might be our hearts, or rather our heartbeats, that hold the clue to understanding and mapping our aesthetic response.

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