25 October 2013

Uncommon Commentary #373: Define the Fine

What is art?  Defenders of non-art often pose this question rhetorically, but it's unwise to put a rhetorical question to someone who can give a legitimate answer to it.  Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary gives six definitions for "art", starting with the most basic: "skill acquired by experience, study, or observation".  The one that here concerns us (and the defenders of bogus art referred to above) is "4b(1): fine arts".  Turning to the entry for "fine art", we find "1a: art (as painting, sculpture, or music) concerned primarily with the creation of beautiful objects — usu. used in pl."  The word "beautiful" provides refutation of the presumption that something qualifies as (by implication, fine) art if some egghead says that it does.  If a painting, for example, looks as though it could have been done by a preschooler or a monkey, it may qualify as a "creation" but not as art.