What is a work of art?

We explain what a work of art is and what these types of objects are for. In addition, how it can be classified and its characteristics.

  1. What is a work of art?

An art work or artistic work means an object made using artistic techniques and with an aesthetic or social purpose. That is, it is traditionally the product of the so-called Fine Arts : painting, sculpture , literature, music, dance , theater , cinema,  photography and comic.

However, it is not easy to define a work of art, or restrict the use of this expression, which can also be used to metaphorically allude to something very well done , someone very beautiful or simply something we like too much. And this difficulty is due to the fact that it is also difficult to define the art itself.

In fact, the arbitrary criteria regarding what is or is not art, today, is a matter of debate and there is no single, scientific criterion. Art is a historical and social construction, to which transcendental values ​​of human civilization are attributed . These can be historical (documentary), aesthetic (technical) or symbolic (social).

Traditionally it is assumed that a work of art is an object that represents the most transcendent universal values ​​of humanity , or that in any case entails an important reflection on them. But these criteria are not always met for everyone equally.

Museums, as protective and selection institutions of the artistic, can be accused of following an ideological, culturalist or some other bias criteria, so their criteria should not be taken for absolute truth either. In addition, due to its nature, many artistic works cannot be stored in a museum .

On the other hand, in contemporary times the idea of ​​artistic work has been subject to criticism and deconstruction, as art proliferates towards more unpredictable and less controllable, more modern and daring variants, less linked to historical tradition . The museums of modern art, in fact, tend to be the scene of this debate, around what may or may not be considered as a work.

  1. What is a work of art for?

The works of art remind us how much we ignore the world and ourselves.

The simplest answer to this question is: not at all. Art does not have a specific purpose to fulfill, a role or a utility . It can be used as decoration, as a historical document or as an exploration of the sensibilities of an era, as one who tries to check what are the most common personal perspectives in a given period.

However, and as complex as it may seem, works of art have a single and simple task: to remind us who we are and where we come from , with whom we live in the world and how much we know and how much we ignore it, and ourselves.

  1. Types of works of art

We could classify the works of art according to the techniques used to make them:

  • Paintings . Fruit of painting and drawing or illustration.
  • Sculptural works . Product of sculpture, abstract or figurative.
  • Musical works . Fruit of the musical composition and that can be interpreted by artists with musical instruments.
  • Literary works . Written by authors of literature in their genres: poetry , essay , dramaturgy and narrative.
  • Plays. Directed and staged by a director and performed by actors, based on a script.
  • Cinematographic works . Those that are produced by a team and filmed in photosensitive film.
  • Performing works . Product of other forms of visual art that require a stage.
  1. Characteristics of a work of art

Works of art must be able to be preserved and displayed to future generations.

Again, it is difficult to establish the characteristics common to every work of art. But let’s agree that a masterpiece should be:

  • Durable . It must be able to be preserved and displayed to future generations.
  • Context . The work does not exist without its historical context and without everything we can say about it, because all that is precisely what it represents.
  • Symbolic . Works of art do not always contain an explicit message, but they represent meanings and meanings, that is, they contain implicit messages that we must learn.
  • Valuable . Its value is not necessarily measurable in money or precious goods, but has a cultural value, since it is an unrepeatable object.
  • Original . There are no other identical to the work of art, but it is something unique and unrepeatable.
  1. Art language

It is understood by artistic language or language of art that means that an artistic form uses to transmit its contents : painting and sculpture are eminently visual, while cinematography is audiovisual and purely auditory music.

It is called language because art exists only to the extent that it communicates a message, even if that message is not always very clear or easy to decipher.

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