Blog: What are the Given Properties that Qualify as a Work of “Art?”

Christine Alfery

Posted on July 18 2019

Under My Umbrella, 12×12, water media on paper
Under My Umbrella, 12×12, water media on paper

Just what are the given properties that work in order to be able to call something a “work of art?”  To attempt to answer this question one needs to recognize that these properties of “art” constantly change. It used to be that “content” and “moral values” qualified as properties for a work to be called art.  Content being, religious, social, political, romantic – moral values or what was considered good or bad within a culture.

Today content and moral issues have become less and less important as properties that would qualify something as art.  So, what are the emerging qualifiers that signify something as a work of art?  Well technology certainly is establishing a strong foothold in the playground of the visual arts. If art indeed has been a historical reflection of current trends and culture than technology definitely has made strong inroads within the visual arts sandbox.

But I find I am asking myself, does art, has art, always been about what is popular at the moment?  I never looked at “art” that way.  And definitely history has shown that there was a time when the shock of the new, the breaking of the established rules, the far out different became the major qualifiers for an object to be classified as “art.”  Critiques have since debunked “the shock of the new” as a qualifying property for something to be art.  Just as they have debunked the idea of media being a major property of an object to qualify as an “art” object.  So just because a work has a digital orientation and that is something “new” within the visual art discourse, if history calls the shots here, we can say nope “been there done that.”

There are some absolutely wonderful technologically done “art” objects out there today.  But just to have a work be technologically done does not make it “art.”

One of the properties for me anyway to call a work “art” is to ask myself how is this work governed?  Is it governed by some social, political, religious, romantic idea?  Is it governed by some group think project? Just how is this work governed?  If my answer to these questions excludes the individual, if the individual creating a unique work isn’t a given property of the work, if I cannot see the individual’s hand in some way in the work, then it is not unique, not an original idea and cannot be “art.”

The governing question is a great one?  How is the work governed?  By the individual or by a collective?

More Posts