What is art? 21:06 on Sunday

Earlier today I was leafing through Computer Arts in a Tallinn bookstore, and stumbled upon an article called Patrons of design. The idea was roughly that now (lucky) creatives are sponsored by corporations, somewhat in the same way as wealthy individuals were patrons of fine artists in the good old days (of which I know nothing).

On the ferry home from Tallinn I killed time reading Directions magazine by Design Hotels, and an article touched on dadaism, which was considered an anti-art movement:

For everything that art stood for, Dada was to represent the opposite. Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics.

Made me think about my relationship to art (again). I would love to do generative art (and be paid for it). So… For me, art is works that fulfill the following criteria:

  • The works are finished
  • The works are created for the sake of creating
  • The works are enjoyed by many
  • The price paid for the works is in no proportion to their material value

All of these criteria are optional. Music especially is a difficult form of art to match with these criteria. Have I lost it with this list? ;)

3 Responses to “What is art?”


  1. Tommi Vilkamo Says:

    I very much like your thinking, even though the criteria doesn’t seem to cut it:

    The works are created for the sake of creating

    So it is art, if the creation is fun, but the end result is not shown to anyone? Hmm…

    The works are enjoyed by many

    So it ain’t art if there are only a few spectators? Or if the spectators don’t enjoy it? (to me, some art is quite repulsive)

    The price paid for the works is in no proportion to their material value

    Why does art need to be paid for?

    Anyway, here’s the best definition I’ve come up with:

    “Art is something created for the sake of creating an emotional response for the spectator”

    How do you like this one? If you like this definition, how could we simplify it to the short&witty core that could become a meme? :)

  2. Tommi Vilkamo Says:

    Ps. emotional response = something that makes you feel something, i.e. enjoy music, see beauty, feel sick, etc.

  3. Niko Says:

    Hehe, I’ll expand my original (quite incomplete) thought a bit further. And it is to be noted, that the points I listed cannot be argued for alone… But:

    • I think “the best” art comes from pure creation; not for enjoying oneself, not for fun, not for pleasing others, not for money or other material benefits, but creating for the sake of creating itself. If you wanted to be poetic, you could even say the art gets created through you.
    • And yes, I explicitly want to define art as something enjoyable. I find most art boring or repulsive, and my dada-sympathy-anti-art-statement is to rule them out of the sphere of art. ;) Also, without spectators, how would you know if the art is enjoyable?
    • Art doesn’t need to be paid for, that’s true. This could be more a play on words than anything, but a price of zero is most likely in no proportion to the value of an art piece.

    I have a problem with art being a tool for shaking emotion out of people, probably mostly because I generally do not like repulsive art. And that’s the kind of emotional response artists seem to be interested in.

    I also don’t like the commercial vs. art mindset. I don’t have a problem with corporations paying “artists” for creating enjoyable experiences. So does that make me anti-art? (I want to be! ;)