What is Art?

Although art is actually something that accompanies us in our life, there is always a doubt in the concrete case, whether something is art or not. This applies not only to modern art but also, for example, to some so-called sacred art, where a religious taboo usually prevents people from speaking of kitsch. For example, the same angel on a fairground organ will be perceived very differently by many people than in a church. The difficulty of a conscious assessment of art becomes clear in view of the wide range of possibilities that exists between the terms’ artistic’ and’ artificial’.

In dictionaries you can read: Art is a skill developed to mastery. Or: art is the creative activity of nature in humans. It originates from a basic human drive and has been one of the most important means of expression since time immemorial.

The first sentence is unlikely to be true in view of what is sometimes regarded as art today, unless the works of young children were also judged to be such masterly skills. In the broadest sense, art is probably all that has been created by man and serves no specific practical purpose, as opposed to things such as plastic, synthetic resin, artificial honey and the like, where the term refers to the artificial production of utilitarian goods and not to artistic creations. Between these two fundamentally different sides of art there are still many terms for mixed and special forms of art such as handicrafts, arts and crafts, art trade, martial arts, art defects and so on. There is also a long-standing television programme’ Kunst & Krempel’, in which old objects of art experts from various fields are examined for their origin, age and conservation status with the help of their expert knowledge and corresponding catalogues, and their artistic and commercial value is assessed.

What is art to be judged on?

Art in the idealistic sense serves first and foremost the artist himself. In his work, he follows an inner instinct – influenced by joy and suffering – which can also make him addicted and hinder his human and social development. The artist gets more or less satisfaction through his artistic work alone. He receives further satisfaction through recognition of his achievements by other people through their respect, admiration and payment. The latter was vital for many great artists of the past. For this reason, it is not certain whether some of the masterpieces, which are regarded as great works of art, correspond to the artist’s inner conviction or more closely to the taste or purpose of the client.

Art serves society in second place by being able to clarify something, but it can also form – for example in the service of the development of religious or political power; it can distract attention from what is important and essential, seduce to one-sidedness, be used for speculation and also – especially for collectors – become an object of addiction. A socially significant phenomenon is also worth mentioning here: an artist who has first of all – by whomever and for whatever reason – been sufficiently publicized, who can do what he wants to do and create, it will be admired by many.

Picasso is said to have given a speech in Madrid on 2 May 1952, in which he said:”Since art is no longer the food of the best, the artist can use his talents for all the changes and whims of his imagination. All paths are open to intellectual charlatanism. The people find no comfort or elevation in art. But the sophisticated, the rich, the impudent and the stunned seek novelty, strangeness, originality, eccentricity and offensiveness in their novelty. Since Cubism, even before, I myself have satisfied all these critics with countless jokes that came to my mind and which they admired all the more the less they understood. These games, these puzzles and arabesques quickly made me famous. And fame means to the artist: sale, wealth, wealth. I’m not only famous today, I’m also rich. But when I am alone with myself, I cannot consider myself an artist in the broad sense of the word. Great painters were Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya. I’m just a joke-maker who understood his time and got everything he could out of the stupidity, lustfulness and vanity of his contemporaries.”

Whether he actually said it or not is basically irrelevant. The content of this statement could also be attributed to many other artists, it does not diminish the artist’s reputation, nor does it diminish the value of the works for lovers or dealers. But he can give food for thought to the uncertain and thus contribute to his own opinion-forming and that’s what it is all about. From a humanistic point of view, art is there for man, not the other way round.

In order to gain a little more clarity in this field, which is very dependent on subjective and subjectively classifying criteria, it could be said in a simplified way: art, whether it is imaging, music, poetry or theater, is beautiful for less intellectually educated people, if it primarily appeals to the feeling that they will hardly make friends with abstract art. Modernists will perceive this emotional art more as kitsch, they like art that mainly appeals to the mind, they don’t need concrete forms and in extreme cases only the score of the music. There are therefore no objective standards for the value of art. For people whose feelings and minds are equally trained, an art will be perceived as beautiful that addresses emotion and reason in the same way.

Art is something you can’t explain, says Spötter. Art comes from can, some say. Art comes from announcing, others say. Can be related to performance, this again depends on talent and/or exercise. Announcing the art does the art of the artist’s talent, education and inner constitution and/or his intention. Because art can be interpreted in such an arbitrary way, there are always people – as in religion – who take advantage of this mysterious ambiguity by offering their personal interpretations to people – mostly uncertain in their own judgement. “Nothing in the world has to put up with more nonsensical remarks like a painting in a gallery,”said Edmond de Goncourt. In both art and religion, the behaviour of many people is often reminiscent of the fairy tale’ The Emperor’s New Clothes’. In this respect, both here and there, the individual’s own judgement remains decisive for him/herself.

Have the courage to serve your own mind, said Kant. As far as art is concerned, we should add: Stand by your feelings, even if they do not coincide with those of the general public. Art is a medium that can be freely designed, evaluated and used in a variety of ways, for individual and social entertainment and self-portrayal, as well as for idealistic and material enrichment. Depending on the purpose of an assessment and evaluation, a holistic inclusion of these contradictory features can help to make an approximate fair and meaningful assessment of art. This seems to be particularly important today, as a busy art business is often celebrated in the name of culture and is often supported with tax money. But just as the devotional celebration of religious rituals does not lead to true religion, the diverse occupation with art already brings culture. Art is and remains a freely available medium for people of all kinds.

Some quotes on the topic


Theodor V. Adorno

Art is magic, liberated from the lie of being truth.

Pablo Picasso:

We all know that art is not the truth. Art is a lie that teaches us to understand the truth, at least the truth that we as human beings can understand.” (1923)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

From the theatre and church ceremonies, I’m equally ill-constructed. The actors make a lot of effort to bring joy, the priests, to incite devotion, and both of them only work on a class to which I don’t belong.


Ordinary audiences love only the new, and all poetry and art is nothing more than the new.


The construction of St. Mark’s Church in Venice is worth every nonsense, which may be taught or driven at that time. All these efforts to assert a lie seem to me to be nothing, and the mummeries, which have something impressive for children and sensual people, seem to me, even when I look at it as an artist and poet, tasteless and small.


The connoisseur should appreciate the simple beauty,
Decorated but gives to the crowd.


Art is a mediator of the unspeakable.

Hermann Hesse

In our modern, bourgeois world, which, of course, is currently shaking in its foundations, the artist represents a kind of substitute figure, and it is ascribed to him by the bourgeoisie that functions are attributed and transferred to him by the bourgeoisie, which would actually be the business of every human being, but which are neglected by the majority of bourgeois people as a result of multiple decay. The artist is actually the only type of person in our society, who lives himself without worrying and under extensive toleration by society, is faithful to his own nature and thus fulfils a commandment that is written in the heart of every human being, but whose reputation suffocates for most in the gloomy struggle for the daily.


All art arises from fear of death.


Leander Haußmann, referred to the social significance of his work:
I’m not a philosopher, I’m one who makes nonsense so people can get their evenings together. I think it’s more like bullshit than others. We don’t make bread or anything to wear. Theatre is in any case only maintained for the cultural prestige of a state.


Art is a lie that lets us know the truth.

Hans-Horst Skupy:

At auctions we are hammered into the relationship to art.

Paul Klee:

The more terrifying this world, the more abstract art becomes,
while a happy world brings forth an art of this world.

Johann Nestroy:

Art is when you can’t, because if you can, it’s not art.

Karl Valentin:

Art is beautiful, but it does a lot of work!


Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us without wanting to understand it? But when it comes to a picture, people think they have to’ understand’ it.


What do you think is an artist? A fool who only has eyes when he is a painter, or only ears when he is a musician…? On the contrary. He is at the same time a political being, always ready to accept moving, burning or happy events, which he replies in every way. How is it possible to show no interest to other people and escape into an ivory tower from the life they give you so abundantly? No, painting isn’t there to decorate apartments. It is a weapon to attack and defend against the enemy. (1937)


You expect me to tell you that I will define you:
What is art? If I knew, I’d keep it to myself.” (1926)


Everything I do in connection with art gives me the greatest pleasure. I love her as my only purpose in life. But that is why I still do not understand why all the world takes care of art, demands notarization letters from it and lets its own stupidity in relation to this subject run wild.


Museums are nothing but a bunch of lies, and people,
who make a deal out of art are mostly con artists. (1935)

Friedrich von Schiller

It is not true what one usually hears people claim that the public pulls art down; the artist pulls the public down, and at all times when art has fallen into disrepair, it has fallen through the artists.


The artist may be the son of time, but he’s bad for him,
if at the same time he is her pupil or even her favourite.


Art is a daughter of freedom.

Joseph Beuys

Every free man is creative. Since creativity is an artist, follow:
only an artist is a human being. … Every human being is an artist.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The contemporary world is not that of an emancipated society; on the contrary, it is marked by self-alienation and the disintegration of morality and morality. Progress in science and the arts is at the root of these processes of alienation and decay.


Looking at education as an art, it seems impossible to be successful because the necessary interaction of nature, things and people does not depend on us. What can be achieved with the greatest care is to get more or less close to the goal. Achieving it completely is a stroke of luck.


Art is often pseudo-intellectually interpreted nonsense.

Art from an ecological point of view:

A person asks his fellow man for his profession, and he says this:
“I make art!” Then he asks,”And who’s gonna make it go away?”


Living in art is something you have to learn for a lifetime.

Bruno H. Bürgel

The art of life consists in seeing, finding and feeling the little pleasures at all.

Erich Fromm

In the art of life, man is both the artist and the object of his work.
of his art. He is the sculptor and the stone, the doctor and the patient.


Being human is an art.

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