Sunday, July 08, 2007

Work of Art

In fine art, a work of art (or artwork or work) is a creation, such as a song, book, print, sculpture or a painting, that has been made in order to be a thing of beauty in itself or a symbolic statement of meaning, rather than having a practical function.

Since modernism, the field of fine art has expanded to include photography (and fine art photography in particular), film (and art film in particular), performance art, conceptual art, and video art.

What is perceived as a work of art differs between cultures and eras and by the meaning of the term '"art" itself. Up until the 1970s, for example, art critics and the general public tended to exclude applied arts from works of art.

To establish whether a work is a work of art, the concepts of artistic merit and literary merit are regularly invoked.

A work of art might be called also an objet d'art a French phrase that literally translates to "art object" and means something with perceived artistic value.

Among practitioners of contemporary art, various new media objects such as the DVD, the web page, and other interactive media have been treated as art objects; such treatment frequently involves a formalist (or "medium-specific") analysis. The formal analysis of computerized media has yielded such art movements as internet art and algorithmic art. The purpose of "new media objects" is not to replace traditional media, but to challenge old media.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Theories of art

Nowhere are we more easily tripped up than in defining what is truly "art." While few people quibble with the sublime beauty of the Mona Lisa, or the timeless majesty of the Parthenon, a general consensus about some works of art leads us to disturbing and difficult questions like "Who gets to say what art is?" or "What is it about this artwork that makes it beautiful?" We do know that while the artist is trying to relate directly to his or her intended audience, the process of defining and appreciating art is facilitated by the theoretician and critic, who give us insight into the work, its nature and its place in the history of culture.

There are many related theories of art. Aesthetics is the philosophy of beauty; aesthetic discussions engage us in disputes about the best way to define art. One theoretical point of view, for example, is that it is a mistake even to try to define art or beauty, insofar as they have no essence, and therefore can have no definition. Another is that art is a cluster of related concepts rather than a single concept. Examples of this approach include Morris Weitz and Berys Gaut.

At the same time, general descriptions of the nature of art can be separated from determinations of beauty and called “theories of art,” but are always ringed with the determination of the relative artistic value of the work.

Another approach is to say that “art” is socially or culturally rooted, and that "art" is that whatever artists, schools and museums say it is. This "institutional definition of art" has been championed by George Dickie. This theory smacks of elitism, and has its populist critics. Most people, at first blush, cannot see the artistry of a Brillo Box or a store-bought urinal; that is, until Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp said they were art, by placing them in a context to be viewed as art (i.e., the art gallery). This contextualization of art cum definition is a common, if overused, feature of conceptual art, prevalent since the 1960s; notably, the Stuckist art movement critiques this tendency.

Proceduralists often suggest that it is the process by which a work of art is created or viewed that makes it, art, not any inherent feature of an object, or how well received it is by the institutions of the art world after its introduction to society at large. For John Dewey, for instance, if the writer intended a piece to be a poem, it is one whether other poets acknowledge it or not. Whereas if exactly the same set of word was written by a journalist, intending them as shorthand notes to help him write a longer article latter, these would not be a poem. Leo Tolstoy, on the other hand, claims that what makes something art or not is how it is experienced by its audience, not by the intention of its creator. Functionalists, like Monroe Beardsley argue that whether or not a piece counts as art depends on what function it plays in a particular context, the same Greek vase may play a non-artistic function in one context (carrying wine), and an artistic function in another context (helping us to appreciate the beauty of the human figure).


Art is a result of human creativity which has some perceived quality beyond its usefulness, usually on the basis of aesthetic value or emotional impact.

The modern use of the word "art", which rose to prominence after 1750, is commonly understood to be skill used to produce an aesthetic result (Hatcher, 1999). Britannica Online defines it as "the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others". By any of these definitions of the word, artistic works have existed for almost as long as humankind, from early pre-historic art to contemporary art.

Many books and journal articles have been written which discuss what we mean by the term "art" (Davies, 1991 and Carroll, 2000). Walt Weaver claimed in 1998 "It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident any more." (Danto, 2003).

Art can describe several kinds of things: a study of creative skill, a process of using the creative skill, a product of the creative skill, or the audience’s experiencing of the creative skill. The creative arts (“art”’ as discipline) are a collection of disciplines (“arts”) which produce artworks (“art” as objects) that is compelled by a personal drive (“art” as activity) and echoes or reflects a message, mood, or symbolism for the viewer to interpret (“art” as experience). Artworks can be defined by purposeful, creative interpretations of limitless concepts or ideas in order to communicate something to another person. Artworks can be explicitly made for this purpose or interpreted based on images or objects.