What Is Art?

What Is Art? Is it something we create or something we consume? Historically, art has been a way of life and expression, providing commentary on a larger culture or expressing an emotion. However, this definition has been controversial, and there is no agreed upon definition. A general description focuses on the creative, technical, and imaginative skills of an artist, but there are no absolute aesthetic qualities. A Baroque painting has nothing to do with a contemporary performance piece, for example.

The classical definitions of art have been less clear. Many are not philosophically self-contained but stand in close relationship to other complexly interwoven components. Great philosophers have taken time to analyze the theoretical components of art, and this makes it hard to understand in isolation. Thus, short summaries of classical definitions are often misleading and insufficient to convey the nuances. But it is not impossible to develop an accurate philosophical definition of art by using an accessible, simple definition.

The emergence of new art forms has posed many problems for traditional definitions. Despite the plethora of new forms of art, many scholars have concluded that art is the creation of an institution with a distinctly different cultural heritage. As such, art theories often exclude entities outside of a distinctive cultural institution. Further, the concept of art can be too narrow and too broad. Therefore, a clear definition of art is necessary. And that’s where the problem lies.