Chris Bond: Why art should not be shoehorned into the talent show format

IT was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but the start of a new four-part TV talent show for artists this week has proved there isn't an art form known to man that can't be cheapened in the name of entertainment.

School of Saatchi promises to do for artists what The X-Factor does for aspiring pop singers.

For those of you who missed the opening salvo, the basic premise is this – six, virtually unknown artists, are battling it out against one another for the chance for their work to be included in a prestigious exhibition organised by art industry "kingmaker" Charles Saatchi.

The artists are shown attending a unique art school, established solely for them, where over the course of 10 weeks they are encouraged to develop their skills, under expert guidance from top artists.

Despite lending his name to the series and choosing the winner, publicity-shy Saatchi isn't actually seen on screen.

Instead, a group of expert panellists, including Tracey Emin, art collector Frank Cohen and the critic Matthew Collings, help advise him.

Saatchi will eventually pick one of the artists to display their work at Newspeak: British Art Now, his exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Fair enough you might think, why shouldn't there be an art programme in the same mould as The Apprentice and The X-Factor?

Surely artists, of all people, need a helping hand. Some of the greatest painters in history were given a leg-up by wealthy patrons and sponsors.

Would Botticelli and Michelangelo, for instance, have still become famous if they hadn't been championed by the powerful Medici family? Well yes, probably.

Sometimes, of course, great artists aren't recognised during their own lifetime, Van Gogh being the most famous example.

But in replicating the talent show format, the BBC seems to be missing the point.

Art is different, it can be difficult for ordinary people to understand, which is why the work of Goya or Magritte sometimes needs to be explained in a way the music of Mozart or The Beatles doesn't.

Not only that but you aren't going to find someone as gifted as Picasso, or even Damien Hirst, on a talent show. I mean could you imagine a young David Hockney taking part in something like this? or Ashley Jackson, or Banksy even?

It was interesting to hear Pavel Bchler, one of those shortlisted for this year's Northern Art Prize, saying that artists should be competing with history, not each other.

He's right, and the only reason the six hopefuls are putting themselves through a trial by TV is because of Saatchi's influence in the art world.

So yes, the winner may well get their 15 minutes of fame, but then what?

The difference between a talented person and a successful one is hard work – and that's something you can't fast-track.