What Qualifies as Art?

‘That’s not art!’ You may often hear people say something like this while strolling through a museum.

Well, what constitutes art? How do you know when it’s art?

I was reading a thread once on an Internet forum that demonstrated how differently people view art. So many posters had so many different ideas about what art is and what it’s not. None of them stated it quite the way I prefer to think of it. Some argued against modern art and some praised it. Some said that art had to be beautiful, some said it had to be skillful. Some said it had to make a statement. Others felt that art was “reborn” when it broke away from realism. There was a comment concerning a canvas, painted black and titled, “Night”. Is it art? Several posters said yes, some said no.

To me the whole thing hinges on the question of “creative expression”. Did the artist exercise creative control in producing a work of art by which he effectively expresses something to another? If he did, then it’s art! It simply has to be something presented to an audience by the artist, even if the only audience is himself. Of course, if no one is moved by the work, then it fails to fulfill its purpose to that degree. But then again, whether his art deeply moves people or is just balked at, it is still art, technically. It may not be very effective; lack of skill may have stifled his efforts. But it is still art.

If one artist has great skill and painted something very realistic but it doesn’t move anyone, while another artist, with less skill, composes a very profound image with only a few strokes of paint and it really moves the viewer, who has created the greater art? It is measured and qualified by the test of “creative expression”.

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