Fine Art (1 Viewer)

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I'm sort of bringing this question from another forum of nut bags to what I think is a "sane" forum: you people!

It might be a dumb question, but what do you think of the term, fine art? Do you agree with the dictionary definition of the term, which is basically:

Painting, sculpture, music and poetry...

Art produced or intended for beauty and aesthetic purposes rather than utility or function.

Do any of you feel that fine art is an elitist term, or that the classification serves an agenda of some powers that be?Is it only the visual artists that could possibly have a bit of a problem with this terminology?

What's your take?

When I hear the term fine art, I think of Greco-Roman sculpture and the Renaisance and the Open University and Brian Sewell talking Titian on TV.
Yeah, I'm far from an expert on art, but it seems that the term "Fine art" is reserved for people who feel that they are better than others. Art is art. bad art is bad art. Good art is good art. Is a sketch on a napkin by Picasso fine art? by those terms, the answer is "yes." Is the most amazing painting of a crime scene by an unknown artist "fine art?" No...

Art that says something to someone is good art. A technically perfect painting of a boring, uninspired subject is not worth framing...

I guess I'm saying that it all seems like bullshit to me.

'fine art' is a term with a definition that has been used for a very long time (Carol gave a good definition). any connotation of that term by us is purely subjective. if I think the term is elitist or pretentious, that's my opinion and it may or may not have validity. but the fact remains the term 'fine art' was created to define something. the same way 'architecture' or 'physics' or 'masonry' were created to define something. our problem with those words is exactly that; our problem.
My degree is in Fine Art, which makes me qualified to draw on napkins :) I think Mr Hines is right though. There are those artists who will be elitist swines, but most artists are more concerned with their work rather than how it is defined. Now who wants a napkin with a squiggle- £500?
To me, the term "fine art" draws a line between itself and folk art, crafts, and primitive or outsider art. It does have that stuck up feeling to it, like it's better than the rest. I think it makes sense as a simple definition, like "architecture", so you know you're dealing with the arts and not the sciences, but once you narrow the field down to the arts, then "fine art" has a snobby attitude.

Hey, I like Brian Sewell! He calls a spade a spade, and even if a statue is ancient, if it'd ugly and stupid, he calls it ugly and stupid. Plus, he weeps when sentiment overcomes him.
This is getting interesting so far. Why is the distinction, and the dictionary snobby? It's just a classification between, say a painting on your wall that is pretty to look at, and a bench made out of bottle caps that you can also sit on. It's not snobbery, it's just a classification. One is more of a craft/artisan art, the other is within the fine arts tradition. THEY ARE BOTH ART. No one is arguing this.

Here's where I think maybe some snobbery comes into play. You can start throwing your tomatoes at me now....

Art with a function, like the bottle cap bench, is a hell of a lot easier to sell than art for art sake. Artists that are taking the "Fine Art" road are taking a bigger risk. That doesn't make them better. It just makes them bigger, broker idiots.

Also, Outsider Art is a fine art, unless it is a folk art chair or something functional: a basket, a carving on a cane, a sign, etc. There are Outsider artists that create paintings for no other reason other than for the sake of aesthetic value, and in a sense, THEY might be the REAL fine artists because some of those guys never even considered selling their work like mainstream artists do.

Commercialism in some ways can be considered a "function" or even a "utility" as a means to benefit the artist's life. Outsiders (many of them) have never even been corrupted in this way.
the purpose distinction is a pretty good one, but even that can get muddied - for instance... a lot of my favorite artists are considered "cartoonists" or "illustrators" rather than artists. their utility in their art is telling a story (cartoonists) or providing graphical context for something verbal (illustrators). but, you often see famous cartoonists like chris ware, seth, or art spiegelman having gallery shows in "fine art" galleries selling their original pages. so, does the original page, disconnected from the entire story, achieve fine art status once it is divorced from its context? or is it that the gallerist thinks that the art has sufficient name cachet that it can be sold as fine art, and with a fine art price? the latter case is where the accusations of snobbery come in - that the art scene has deemed that this or that cartoonist has risen above the low aspirations of his/her medium and thus deserves to have his/her work sold in a more rarefied realm, like the SOHO art gallery.

another way to look at it is that ALL art tells a story in some way. comics tell a story generally in a very linear manner (although there are always exceptions), whereas you have to dig a little bit more to find the more ambiguous story in a painting from a traditional fine artist, especially when you move into abstract or minimalist art. again, this is where snobbery creeps in - that any idiot can understand a cartoon book, but only someone who is sufficiently cultured can understand the story or meaning in a piece of string nailed to a white wall. in southern california, this dichotomy was what sprung lobrow art, since those artists were more interested in engaging their iconography (tiki heads, hot rod cars, hot ladies) than what was deemed artistic at the time. (another way snobbery comes in is when you look at art by someone like wayne thiebauld, who was famous for painting cakes and cupcakes, and although rejected at first, his art has become a key part of the american 20th century canon precisely because of its subversion of the idea that fine art has to have high subject matter. which is nice, although again with him it was a case of the art gentry conferring this lofty status on his art while still insisting on looking down their noses at other, lower forms of art.) at the same time, in new york, art spiegelman was curating the RAW anthologies, which showcased cartoonists in a setting that aspired more to fine art publications than newsprint floppies sold in candy stores (or porno arcades). the funny thing is, many of the artists in RAW, like jacques tardi or joost swarte, were already considered fine artists in Europe, where cartooning is given a seat at the fine art table, rather than relegated to the low culture ghetto it has been trying to break out of in the US for 30 years.

so yes, there is a clear difference between art designed to hang on a gallery wall and a park bench or flag pole, or even architectural flourishes like the famous art deco archways at paris metro station stops. but, with a lot of art, it gets muddy trying to categorize it as "fine" or as something else, which is why that determination is often left to those who are supposedly in the know.
Jordan, Your take is interesting too. Is telling a story in itself a function? Or is a book with pages that you turn the function? We can then talk about Book Arts... But first let's settle this idea before we get into that.

I love Spiegelman by the way. I would not call him a fine artist though. I'd call him a graphic artist. he's still a GREAT artist. I do not "look down my nose" at him EVER! And I do think if you take an original drawing/panel/page of his, frame it, and put it on the wall is does become fine art. Not because the story is pulled out of its context. I don't think narrative has anything to do with it. I think it's function. The work then only functions as a piece of art for aesthetic sake.

But apparently I'm a big fat snob, so what do I know?

I think we talked a little bit about illustrators at my house. I had a little irritation about them breaking into the fine art scene, I think I told you, but I would not argue that despite the fact that their work on canvas and/or panels, paper, etc. is illustrative, it is fine art for the mere fact that they are what they are.

BUT, if they were Coca-cola advertisements, they are not fine art. They are works for hire. Illustrations. Graphic art. Art, certainly, but not fine art.

One of my favorite artists was an illustrator (Maxfield Parish). I have no problems with that. My pet peeve with the more recent illustrators that have stepped into the pop-surrealism style and have shown in fine art galleries are that they went to art school and got their degrees in illustration and graphic arts, got referrals and connections for jobs in that field, and while doing so, moonlighted into the fine arts world in this seamless way without the commitment, the risk, the dues, devotion, starvation, and in many cases the originality many other fine artists have. It's not very adult of me, but there is a small amount of resentment there for a specific type of Juxtapoz clone. I think you know the kind I mean.

It's similar to the way tattoo artists look at artists that are tattooing out of their houses without having ever done an apprenticeship (AKA scratching). And many artists look down on me for not having earned my MFA, so I have my fair share of being discriminated against as well. It doesn't matter that I have earned the Pollock-Kransner and all those other awards. And I wonder if Skowhegan School of Art, if I get in (I applied in Feb/find out in April), will help my reputation at all, as it's one of the countries most prestigious short term art schools - but I doubt it. That MFA is golden.

Now, are we ready to talk about Book Arts yet? I fear
just to play devil's advocate... if you took a bunch of fine art pieces and reprinted them in a book (say, an artist's monograph), do the works cease to be fine art at that point, since they are used in the context of a utilitarian object (the book)?

as far as book arts goes... arguing that book arts is a fine art means that, by extension, i am a fine artist. i think it would be disingenuous for me to claim that. there are a lot of creative things you can do with book arts, but you're never really creating anything out of whole cloth. one of the things i like about it is the constraint - there always has to be a book in there somewhere - but that also means that you can't engage with ideas nearly as readily as you can if you're painting/drawing/sculpting. i look at book arts more along the lines of crafting or hobby - even at the highest levels of the craft.
Telling a story is function. A book is media. I think of the book arts as a craft. It can be very artfully done, but it's still mainly functional -- a medium for the content of the book to exist it. Not that I don't respect it -- I do. But I wouldn't call it fine art.

I think all the galley/academic/award hierarchy would make my head hurt. I'm not sure how any one puts up with that. My daughter is an artist and is always fighting that battle, and winning sometimes, and losing sometimes. I would find it hard to be creative in that world.
It seems that where a lot of people get hung up on this definition is over the word fine. If you take fine to mean superior quality, then I can see where you could argue that forever, since quality is objective. But the 'fine' in fine art doesn't mean superior.

They need to rename that shit so people can calm down and live together in harmony. Far out!
I have to agree with Rekrab a bit here on book arts. It is a craft, but probably in a new category when it's a one of a kind piece. Still a craft. I won't ruffle people's feathers and let you in on the classification of "fine craft" but there is such a thing. Perhaps that is snobbish because there are galleries for it. All it is is craft with a slight twist and exhibited without a true function and called "fine craft." But please, do not pulverize the messenger.

There are some art book that have absolutely no "book" function art all. you can not read them or turn the pages. They just resemble a book, sort of. It's difficult to classify them. People wonder, why classify art at all? And I think about that and as a writer and a person who loves to talk, how else can there be a dialogue? Don't we need a language about this stuff? And what about when referring to historical movements in art, because after all, the art everyone makes now is just like a response to what has already been said. Same in music and literature. It's just one big conversation.
The argument seems to be born of a need to categorize and somehow quantify what's 'best' in a kind of heirarchy, and hail what is great while ultimately dismissing what is 'worst.' Which I don't think can be done.

In the simplest terms, we have:
1) the thing that was made (be it a painting, a sculpture, whatever).
2) how it is sold.

Is it 'fine art' because the object is unique, and something only the artist could do?
Is it fine art because it has some kind of value or worth in an art market/auction?
Or is a piece simply worth (to you) what you are willing to pay for it?

To me the whole damn problem is one of economics and commerce, and not necessarily the art itself. The lines of art and commerce are blurred by both a genuine need to describe it (what it is, who made it), and a commercial need to ascribe a value to it (justify its pricetag).

All the blather and gobbledygook might just be the way artists stake a claim to their turf, and how the gallerys pitch their artists. Or maybe it is a solid and legitimate description of's pretty hard to know. And the fact that the two are almost indistinguishable is probably what frustrates the average joe art-viewer.

In the end, it's the individual reaction to a piece...then it's the marketing. Though, at this point, I feel like somehow maintaining a fragile sanity while working a damn job, and trying to find a way to do something beautiful with whatever time you have left before sleep is the real human art--no matter what is produced.
Hosh... I think THIS is the very problem: "The argument seems to be born of a need to categorize and somehow quantify what's 'best' in a kind of heirarchy, and hail what is great while ultimately dismissing what is 'worst."

It's hierarchy by the way, but that is NOT the argument or the "need." The need is simple. Classification in order to discuss the difference like anything else. There are differences in other fields like prose and poetry, technical writing, fiction, and journalism. The word "good" is not placed before any of those classifications, but we all know there is good writing and bad writing in poetry, prose and fiction. All of that is a fine art too by the way!

In the IT field, there are system administrators, software engineers, computer programers, network admins, tech support, systems analysts ... the specializations go on and on.

There is no hierarchy. It's the difference between function and non-function. I've seen some folk art, carvings and engravings that all would be categorized as folk art/artisan craft that FAR exceeds most fine art. I tend to collect more of that stuff than I do fine art as well because I appreciate it better. Compare some of the turn of the century folk art carvings to Ellsworth Kelly. That's a laugh right there. What's "better?" No one is talking about what is "good to worse" at all.

In the IT field, there are system administrators, software engineers, computer programers, network admins, tech support, systems analysts ... the specializations go on and on.

Back before I retired and became a schmohawk sitting at home selling shit on eBay and writing goofy stories, I was a "database analyst", which is somewhere between a database administrator/designer and a data analyst. I didn't fit into anyone's definition in the IT world, which meant I seldom got the full respect of the true data analysts or the true database programmers. I'm not complaining, just describing how definitions affect even IT people.
Maybe the fine art classification and my reaction to it is out of ignorance. Who knows.

Labels seem strange to me. Art that speaks to me is art that I like. Art that leaves me empty, leaves me empty.

William Burroughs is a "beat" author. His book, Junkie is therefore a beat novel. The book borrows A LOT from You Can't Win by Jack Black (not the actor, but the hobo author). Jack Black is certainly NOT a beat author and You Can't Win is an amazing, but NOT beat novel. Still, if you read that and Burroughs book, one is called B eat and one is not. Labels mean little.

And as we all know, Buk was not beat, so no need to discuss that...
As far as I understand it, "fine art" is only "fine" in the sense that is distinct from "applied art" or "craft". Applied art is something that is artful and practical, something that is fine art is only artful, and both may (or may not) involve a degree of craft. I think originally it was just used to define the function of the object (fine = no practical purpose, applied = could be used practically (though rarely is)) and the connotation of levels of value and worth are later additions.
Anyway, according to the Greeks all of this was a "manual art" (something you did with your hands) and therefore inferior to the "liberal arts" (something mental). So the Greeks would have been a bit sniffy about all the art we have written about.
That's something to chew on (as Aristotle might have put it).
going back to the definition that .. is it Carol? .. gave in the beginning, to me the problem is that "fine art" defines itself out of the world. It's constantly trying not to be real. What i mean is that beauty is definitely useful. The transmission of meaning is definitely useful. There are much better ways to talk about the specific kind of art one does. The 'fine art' concept is purely academic and in the immortal words of MJP, i personally find it to be effete and bloodless. If somebody paints, they're a painter, makes books they're a bookmaker. In principle there's no reason why sculpture and music and painting should be in one group and cooking and knitting and carpentry in another .. let alone mosaic or needlepoint. If somebody uses recycled materials they do 'salvage art' or 'found object art,' if they consistently operate within impressionistic modes they're an 'impressionistic artist.' To me fine art is a convention, but not a benign one - convention that conveys a kind of baggage that the world could very well do without.
Perty pictures are useful. They have a function in the world I suppose. They rank right up there with shoes and milk.

...feelin' better already!
In principle there's no reason why sculpture and music and painting should be in one group and cooking and knitting and carpentry in another ..

yes there is a reason. I can live without sculpture and music and painting. I wouldn't be happy, but I could live without it. but I couldn't live without cooking (food) and knitting (clothes) and carpentry (shelter). we have basic needs for life, we have other needs to make life more fulfilling.

there is a difference between craft and art, whether we like it or not.
.....according to the Greeks all of this was a "manual art" (something you did with your hands) and therefore inferior to the "liberal arts" (something mental)....

So perhaps with the rise of conceptual art, "fine art" has finally become a "liberal art" by becoming purely mental - taking an existing object and nominating it as art and displaying it in a museum. It's magic...if you believe in magic.
Looks almost like a Bukowski...

Fine art is what you call art when you want to sell it to someone, otherwise it is just what you do and people will label it as they see fit - good art, bad art, amazing, terrible, SHOCKing and other forms of what-are-you, who-are-you, what-is-it and the like... Definitions are just an attempt to fit into someone else's reality. LIFE is real everything else is catch-up.
Your crackly blue face makes me wonder if you are into trading Zentai parephenalia or perhaps you have some wrestling singlets you would sell or trade to me? I have wrestling shoes, singlets, bamboo chastity devices, 80s CDs, El Polo Loco gift cards and a MASSIVE HOARD of BUKOWSKI TREASURES. Email me. Don't delay. Send me more pictures of your blue face and torso.
I think my definition is very much influenced by my mother tongue.

The Danish translation of "fine" would be "fin. The Danish translation of "pretty" is also "fin". It is pronounced a little different, though. Yet I still consider "fine art" to be "pretty art". Art that suits the designer couch, writers that only cares about writing pretty sentences, and such things.

Of the same reason I consider "fine art" to be very narrow minded, as good "art" often needs an ugly dimension to fulfill its emotional and aesthetic message/mission/what ever good art tries to do.

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