That’s a question that has been around for centuries—and the answers to that question are as varied as the people giving them. Everyone has their own opinion as to what art is.
Just take a look at some of the arguments that crop up when the question of federal funding of the arts is discussed:
Anytime there is an exhibition in a museum which has received federal monies, there is bound to be an outcry that some of the “art” being sponsored by the government is not art at all.
One such exhibition was a work that included an American flag placed on the floor. The only way to go past the piece was to walk on the flag—obviously this didn’t sit right with a lot of people.
Damien Hirst’s body of work also draws much skepticism as to it’s artistic worth. I’m not sure how gutting a cow, stringing it up, and leaving the entrails piled underneath it qualifies as art, but there are some that will defend it as such. I personally won’t.
There is an artist in France right now who lists his art on eBay. He seems to sell just about everything that he puts up for auction. Having looked at his art I can say that I wouldn’t pay one dollar for any of his pieces, nor would I hang them on my walls.
But, there are many who do buy his work, and they consider it “art.”
The crayon drawings of my children, when they were younger, are considered art by me even though they will probably not be hanging in the Louvre anytime soon. I’m sure that millions of parents around the world would also say that the work created by their children is “art.”
Many artists deride the works of others just because it doesn’t meet their criteria of what art is. Take for example the works of Bob Ross. No other artist polarizes artists more than Bob (the one exception, maybe, is Thomas Kinkade).
Bob has probably led more people to pick up a brush than any other artist, living or dead. These people learn to enjoy painting, and in the process, many find that they can actually create things they never dreamed of.
Is it fine art? In most cases, it is not, but that’s beside the point.
The art produced by students of the Bob Ross method are done for the enjoyment of the artist and their families—and that is just fine with them. A lot of these students, myself included, have gone past what we learned from Bob and grown in our abilities to produce much more varied pieces in different mediums.
So I believe art is whatever the viewer says it is. Art must be defined by the viewer.
One person will look at a Jackson Pollack painting and claim it to be some of the finest art ever created. Others will look at it and see nothing more than paint splattered all over a canvas.
Some will look at a painting or drawing done by Pablo Picasso and remark at his artistic genius while others will see nothing more than scribbles that resemble something the average three year old could best.
I wouldn’t presume to say what art is or isn’t because my opinions on the matter are just that; my own opinions.
No matter what piece of work I may be looking at there is bound to be someone that will disagree with whatever I have to say about it. And this is just fine with me.
After all if one person, and one person only, was in charge of declaring whether something was “art” or not, then we’d probably all have a much more difficult time selling our work than we do now.
But, for every person out there who opines that my work is not art, there are others willing to pay me to have one of my works hanging on their wall. When it comes to the question “What is art?” it is their opinion that I will value more than any others.