Sam Norton

A&E Editor


I used to think that art was defined by the classics—Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Monet, Dali, Picasso, Kahlo and O’Keefe–that their work could stand the test of time, that it couldn’t be recreated. This still holds true; their work has served as the fundamental building blocks for interpreting and defining art. But our generation’s idea of what art is has changed.

It’s no longer rare; rather it’s an abstract idea that can easily be recreated by the average person who possesses no artistic ability. Now, canvases in solid hues and finger paints sell for thousands of dollars. The unique classical style is no longer incorporated in modern art. People are more focused on the creative and abstract aspect rather than creating something that is relatable.

Lefteris Pitarakis /AP Photo An Art13 London fair worker poses for the photographers inside an art piece, a 12-meter installation created by Chinese abstract artist Zhu Jinshi, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.

Lefteris Pitarakis /AP Photo
An Art13 London fair worker poses for the photographers inside an art piece, a 12-meter installation created by Chinese abstract artist Zhu Jinshi, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.

Instead of “Starry Night”, “Mona Lisa”, “The Girl With the Pearl Earring” and “Water Lilies,” art is based more on creating a statement rather than a reaction. Now, anything can be classified as art. It’s no longer an enviable skill, but is an ability that everyone possesses—but that’s also dependent upon who you ask.

The beauty of art is that it’s subjective; it allows you to develop your own meaning and connection. But when that piece of artwork isn’t rare—when it’s something that can be easily recreated—it loses a sense of authenticity and meaning.

In Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of a Man Under Socialism,” he wrote that, “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” But the type of artwork that is present in modern society has taken this notion too literally. Artists have become so focused on creating a piece that is unique, nothing like we’ve ever seen before, but by possessing this type of mindset, they become lost in the process thereby making their work ordinary.

The classic artists didn’t seek to create a piece of work that was more individualistic, but rather they created work that was reflective of their perspectives and observations. They didn’t get lost in their abstract ideas.

These abstract ideas that are currently embedded in the art world are ones that make artwork difficult to relate to.

The classic artists who once were prevalent in our society no longer reign popular. Instead, graffiti artists such as Shepard Fairey and Banksy have taken center stage. Art has now become about making a statement, rather than developing your own statement about it.

In Leo Tolstoy’s essay “What is Art?” he explained, “Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.” However, modern day artists are making it difficult to develop a sense of unity by creating art that is difficult to attach meaning to.

Now anything can be classified as art—but does that give it an element of significance or meaning? Maybe it’s about having an eye for interpreting the art, or maybe the translation is lost in its construction, but the face of art has changed as society has evolved. Michelangelo Pistoletto in “Art’s Responsibility,” said, “Above all, artists must not be only in art galleries or museums—they must be present in all possible activities. The artist must be the sponsor of thought in whatever endeavor people take on, at every level.”

If this were true of modern artwork, it wouldn’t be designed for the shock value, but to target a certain demographic—one that shares the same thoughts, experiences, and emotions as the artist.

According to Soren Petersen’s article “What is Art?” “To appreciate an art piece, one has to be able to understand and share the vocabulary applied. Thoughts and ideas are worthless unless shared — without impact they have no relevance. Perhaps some of the more well-designed and innovative products of today are, in reality, a type of substitute art because, although functional, they may still be perceived as art.”

Maybe, after all, art is all about perception.


Sam Norton can be contacted at

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