What is art? (Project 1: Arts and Ideas – Exercise 2)

Record your thoughts on the questions below. Spend just 15 minutes or so on this activity

  • What is art?

  • How do we know it is art?

  • Who decides what is art?

  • Is it enough just to display a found object and say ‘this is art’ because it is in an art gallery?

  • Duchamp said he wanted “to put art back in the service of the mind”. What do you think he meant by this?

This response is in two parts. Part 1 is the 15 minute response. In the second part, I wanted to find a definition of art in three art history books I own.

Part 1

What is art?

Art is the output of human creativity. Given the huge breadth of that output, it does tend to be defined within various categories. These include Performing Arts, Creative Arts, Art and Design, Applied Arts, Fine Art and so on. I think a question follows from this very broad definition; does any creative output justify being described as art?

I think art has another meaning. It also describes the development of original and different ways in which that creative output is expressed. This second definition may then start to limit the amount of creative output above, which may be described as art. I wish to explain this with an example. Consider a painter who produces a work on canvas which is in the style, say, of Monet, and the subject matter is water lilies. That work might not be considered a work of art as it lacks originality.

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