I was having a conversation with a client yesterday, he had come in to see the work of a new artist to the gallery and as we chatted we moved onto the broad topic of what actually constituted fine art and how it could be measured? So what is fine art?
It’s a term I’m sure we are all used to being heard bashed around, but most would struggle to define. According to the Oxford English Dictionary ‘fine art’ is a noun that has two meanings:
1. Creative art, esp. visual art, whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content
– the convergence of popular culture and fine art
2.An activity requiring great skill or accomplishment
– he’ll have to learn the fine art of persuasion
Ok! So according to our first definition almost anything can be classed as fine art, its meaning could have such a wide interpretation it’s almost impossible to distinguish between the doodle I did on a scrap of paper whilst waiting for the ASDA man to arrive and the piece of art next to me that took over 40 hours to create. Surely there has to be more to fine art than this?
Our second definition of the word is certainly narrower it holds that fine art or the fine art of something holds a certain degree of skill, professionalism and training. This phrase is not however linked directly to art and as in the example given above by the dictionary. So is fine art the; fine art of fine art? As a gallery owner my only answer can be yes, the art we display here has be of a certain quality and the artist must have developed their skill base and technique to a high level. In this sense the artist is no different to any other professional.
So how then do we decide the types of art and artists that fall into this category of being the fine art of fine art? There are of course a whole range of variables and factors that could be taken into account and not all of them would necessarily fit every circumstance. This question is one that can divide opinion and promote debate; the question is in that sense like art itself.
To me whether or not something is fine art can only measured by ability, skill, originality and the reputation the artist has built for themselves. Simply creating something or doing a degree in fine art is not enough to secure the title. Ultimately the title will always be decided by the individual viewing the work or the environment in which the art is set – it would be hard to argue even if you disliked the art that if something were displayed in the National Gallery or in Tate that the art wasn’t fine art.
How would you define the meaning of fine art?