What Makes a Work of Art Art?

Art encompasses a wide range of mediums, including painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, photography, architecture, and video. The defining characteristics of any work of art may be influenced by cultural and historical context, as well as the artist’s personal experiences and interests. In addition to an artistic medium, artworks can also be categorized by their subject matter or genre, and the style in which they are executed. It is important to consider the meaning and purpose of a piece of art when evaluating its quality.

A work of art can elicit a wide variety of emotions and feelings. It can be uplifting and inspiring, terrifying and dreadful, or vulgar and crass. A work of art can be a mirror of the viewer’s own inner struggles, or it may serve as a means to understand other people’s experiences and emotions. The emotional impact of a piece of art is what makes it unique and important, and its ability to stimulate an array of thoughts and ideas is what distinguishes it as a form of expression.

The concept of art has been debated and analyzed by philosophers and scholars throughout the centuries. Various theories attempt to define what makes art “art,” such as the idea that a work of art must be created by a human and is therefore inherently subjective. Others believe that a work of art must express something recognizable to the human eye and is therefore objective. Still others argue that a definition of art, were there one, would have a stifling effect on artistic creativity.

One theory of what makes a work of art “art” argues that it must possess certain qualities: originality, representational of the time in which it was made, passion, a frame of reference, freshness, and intellectual content. According to this view, a work of art must also be easily identifiable as the creation of a particular artist.

Other theories of what makes a work of art “art” are less concerned with specific qualities or features, and instead focus on the social and cultural context in which it was produced. This approach to the definition of art is referred to as Institutionalism, and it is best known through Marcel Duchamp’s “ready-mades.”

There is an argument that a work of art can only be understood within a community of artists, critics, and other cultural participants. This is called the Open Concept Theory, and it was argued by Arthur Danto in 1956.

Ultimately, it is impossible to provide a conclusive list of the qualities or characteristics that make a work of art “art.” However, it is helpful to look for certain attributes in works of art — a sense of beauty, an emphasis on skill, the existence of a problem, and a sense of magic. A good work of art will be able to communicate these features without any unnecessary distractions.