What Is Art?

You might favor some of the definitions and descriptions about art more, but what is obvious is that there is no simple answer to a question like “what is art”! Some define art as any expression of creativity and imagination, but how can we make sure that a work is “creative” or “imaginative”? Since in realistic arts, things from real life are being “imitated,” and in more abstract or expressionist art forms more creativity is at work seemingly, is this definition implying that the works of the former group are “less artistic” compared to the latter ones? On the other hand, if we take “skill” as a criterion for the evaluation of the artistic qualities of a work, then perhaps it makes more sense that a more detailed and realistic work should be considered as “more artistic,” when compared to an abstract art piece.


Some may prioritize “expression” and transmitting of emotions in defining art, and for others, the entertaining quality of an art work may be its defining feature. However, aren’t these qualities completely subjective? We have many different types of art pieces in our art shop in Canada, and while some of the art pieces that we sell seem to be questionable for some of the costumers, some others actually take intense interest in them. Perhaps, you also have experience with feeling a deep emotional connection with a particular art piece which your friend might see as boring, or vice versa.


There are many other questions that can be asked when one tries to define art. Some may believe that arts should only be aesthetically pleasing, and that they shouldn’t be political. Others actually prioritize the political message that arts can express. And then also, a third group may question the implication that it is possible at all for an art piece to not be political; after all, all artists are shaped by the sociopolitical context around them in a way, and even if they do try to keep politics out of their art work, it is still possible that they do not succeed.

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