What is Art?

Is it art because the artist and others say it’s art? Is it art because someone paid a fortune for it? I believe that all art must show thoughtfulness relative to composition, subject, technique, color selection and dimensionality. The artist usually has a purpose such as decoration, functionality such as storing food, shocking the viewer with political statements, communicating a religious message, preserving a person’s image or just for amusement. I’m still stuck with the question of how to distinguish between good and bad art. What are your thoughts?

Here’s an answer from a fellow artist, David Conford:

Sincerity has little to do with it. Obviously, a talentless, colorblind dauber can be very sincere indeed and still turn out crap. It’s not representational fidelity. Even before the 20th century, that had nothing to do with it. View totem poles, Easter Island heads, Aztec wall decorations, or even Romanesque and Byzantine art. That ain’t photographic realism, but it’s sometimes at least – great art. I like your thoughtfulness relative to composition, etc. but that leaves a lot of elbow room for debate as well. “Les Demoisselles d’Avignon” blows off dimensionality entirely but it blows me away. “Subject” is another massive article for debate. Warhol’s Marilyn paintings and prints, Kandinsk’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, Pollock’s action paintings all are definitely “about” something (yeah, even IPollock( but I defy you to differentiate a talented kindergarten representation from Basquiat or even Dubouffet. Even “degree of care” (which I thought might be useful for about ten seconds) pales before the very careful representations of bull fighters on black velvet, kitsch by anyone’s standards. Thoughtfulness + craft + taste + talent = good art. And “talent” is the most difficult, but most indispensable part of the equation.

Representative answers from the art world:
What Makes Good Art?

“While art has become, in the experimental 20th and 21st centuries, impossible to define– critics learned long ago to stop being prescriptive, perhaps a little too well—

Good visual art looks stunningly right and, in retrospect, obvious, or inevitable– yet it’s also continually surprising. It is a powerful paradox. How can someone have possibly made this? How in the world could it not have been made?
DeWitt Cheng, freelance art writer and critic, Bay Area, CA
Clear intention, unwavering dedication, patience, perseverance, self- awareness and the drive to make for yourself and no one else. –Cheryl Haines, Haines Gallery, San Francisco
At its most fundamental level, good art is an effective combination of concept, vision and mastery of medium (the ability to get the point across). Good art is also uncompromisingly honest, unselfconscious, bold, ambitious, enlightening, original, challenging, and a feast for the senses. It doesn’t necessarily have to have all of these qualities, but at the very least it has to keep you coming back for more… and never ever bore.
Alan Bamberger, itinerant artster, San Francisco