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What is art?

In Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts, Hans Abbing asserts “art is what people call art, acknowledging that some people have a bigger say in it than others have.” The author claims that two types of art exist: superior and inferior art, high and low art, or real and non- art. Abbing discusses Goodman, a philosopher of art, who claims, “What differentiates art from non-art is the alteration of the rules by the artist.”

In contemplating these philosopher’s assertions, the artist, Marcel Duchamp comes to mind. Although debatable, his readymades are art. If we use the logic presented in Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts, it can be concluded that art world professionals who have “a bigger say” called Duchamp’s work art, and therefore it is.  We know that Duchamp’s work is an apt reflection of the period from which it emerged; however, to the layman his bicycle wheel is just a bicycle wheel.

I think the definition of art differs from person to person, trained or untrained. The must successful works, recognized as “art”, are those that speak to a global audience.  The definition of art is subjective as it varies from person to person, therefore it will never reach a consensus.

I don’t know what art is, but I know it when I see it.



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