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He's a Top Cat, but is it art?

His intellectual close friends may get to call him TC but there are surely still few connoisseurs who would give Top Cat's dustbin a place in the pantheon of fine arts.

Similarly Tom and Jerry and Betty Boop seem scarcely the stuff of artistic contemplation. And even advocates of the cutting-edge would be unlikely to place Porky Pig alongside Damien Hirst's cow.

And yet a new permanent display at London's Hayward Gallery is to show contemporary and classic cartoons alongside video installations and artists' interviews.

Touchscreen monitors have been installed in a new glass pavilion on the second floor of the gallery. These will enable visitors to view a selection of cartoons, ranging from Tom and Jerry to The Powderpuff Girls. The same screens will also show artists' films and video introductions to gallery exhibitions.

Susan Ferleger Brades, Hayward Gallery director, said: "By inviting a child in to look at cartoons, we hope we will lead them to explore what else is on the screen. We want to show them there are lots of things to look at in a gallery."

Sandra Duffy, Year 5 teacher at Brecknock primary in north London, hopes to take her pupils to the exhibition. She said: "I've seen children getting bored and frustrated being dragged around art galleries by adults. You've got to keep it fun.

"Cartoons are also a visual education in their own right, from a design point of view."

Questions about whether or not cartoons constitute art are inevitable.

Ms Ferleger Brades said: "Cartoons are absolutely germane to visual arts practice in the past two centuries. They are part of our visual culture."

Nine-year-old Brecknock pupil, Danny Haworth, who was among a number of children invited in to trial the touchscreens, agrees.

He said: "People think that art is boring old paintings of kings from ages ago. They think cartoons are just something kids watch. But we were watching cartoons on TV. And it's art, because it's in a gallery."

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