What is 'art'?
If you think about it many things we now call art such as a beautiful example of ancient pottery or the oldest medieval manuscript were not 'made' as 'art' but as functional objects. It is only the passage of time and our appreciation of the object that had now allowed it to be called 'art'.
Art doen't have one definition. Even calling something a 'work of art' is recent and first started in the 15th century. During the Renaissance the word emerged to include painting, sculpture, architecture and later music and poetry which then became know as the 'Fine Arts'. These five Arts excluded the 'decorative arts' and 'crafts' - pottery, weaving, metalwork, woodwork which where seen as having a usefulness and purpose.
Why do we feel an 'artist' is different from a 'craftsperson'? In the ancient world what we term 'art' today included any activity that was governed by rules - painting, sculpture, shoemaking, weaving which today we seperate into 'art' or 'craft'.
It was only in the Renaissance that 'art' emerged as more exalted and the painter, sculptor, poet, architect and musician were seen as subjects of inspiration. The first academies of art were founded with the task of educating the artist in subjects including geometry and anatomy. Out of these academies emerged the term 'Fine Arts' with a narrow definition of what constituted art.
By the middle of the century modernists contradicted the standards and principles of the academies. By the beginning of the 20th artists began to formulate the notion of "Art for Art's Sake." All traditional notions of the identity of the artist and of art were thrown into disarray and replaced by the idea that anything the artist produces is art. This has fostered a broader assessment of art but has also lead to confusion.
What do you think art is? What is artistic freedom of expression? Should we reject tradition or look to the past?
Now critics and art historians discuss art in formal terms of style, colour, line, shape, space, composition. Social, political, or progressive statements the artist hoped to make may be ignored.
Is the function of art to preserve and enhance the values and sensibilities of society or to remain aloof from the real world? Is the art market interested in money not meaning? Should aesthetic quality or marketability have priority in deciding the function of art instead of its social or political relevance?
Artists continue to produce but we no longer know if it is art or not. We feel uncomfortable if it fails to fit whatever we think art should be. Is it because we have been taught that art is important that we may be unwilling to face up to 'art' having many definitions? Art remains significant to people and we struggle with the definition of what 'art is'. Can anything be art? Is one form of art is truer than another?
What do you think?