The Tetley

Leeds Salon: Can Art Survive the Culture Wars?

Saturday 28 April, 3pm

Leeds Salon is a discussion and debating group established in 2009. The Salon organises public discussion around political, cultural and scientific issues, with the aim of challenging orthodoxies. Writers, academics and experts in their field are invited to present their ideas and to have them debated and held up to scrutiny by the audience. The Salons are lively, informal and open to all. 

The second of two spring talks Leeds Salon is hosting in partnership with The Tetley on the theme of culture and politics.

How do accusations of cultural appropriation affect the work of artists who draw inspiration from other cultures? Is the female nude still an acceptable subject for art in the #MeToo era? Should gallery curators remove works that reflect outmoded ideas which objectify women? Should plays be avoided if they sexualise young people? Should films be shelved if their directors are found to have behaved badly towards women and others? Are the culture wars threatening the future of the arts?

The arts have historically been preserved spheres of freedom. Organisations such as Index on Censorship campaign for free expression in the arts in the UK and internationally. Artists have historically fought against censorship and many make a point of challenging the boundaries of social propriety and artistic convention. But is it time to re-evaluate the work of artists who appear to objectify women and cultural minorities? Does such work legitimise and perpetuate unacceptable ideas and attitudes?  Or should the arts be defended as a sphere of free expression, whatever the consequences?

Dr Wendy Earle will explore what’s at stake for the arts as they become a battleground for the culture wars.


Wendy Earle works at Birkbeck, University of London, to promote knowledge exchange and public engagement with research in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and writes on the arts and culture for spiked and is convenor of the Academy of Ideas Arts and Society Forum.

Admission: £5 waged/£4 unwaged (cash only) to pay on the day, but please reserve your place by e-mailing us at

Image:  John William Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896. Purchased from the artist, 1896, Courtesy Manchester Art Gallery