chapter  5
What is art? (Art is what?)
Pages 26

In 1997 the New York Times published a survey of opinions about the natureof art compiled from interviews with seventeen established experts: art historians, museum curators, critics, a philosopher, artists, a newsperson, and a Congressman involved with the National Endowment for the Arts. The questions they were asked included our title subject: what is art? One might expect well formulated definitions to emerge from such a group, but the opinions ranged from noncommittal to skeptical. Most expressed the view that it is pretty difficult to say what art is these days, partly because it is more or less impossible to rule out anything that it is not. “There is no single definition of art that’s universally tenable,” stated William Rubin, former director of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. “There’s no consensus about anything today,” concurred Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum. “Even the notion of standards are in question.” Art historian Thomas McEvilley was somewhat bolder: “It is art if it is called art, written about in an art magazine, exhibited in a museum or bought by a private collection.” But artist Barbara Kruger was skeptical even about this open-ended statement: “I have trouble with categories,” she stated. “I do know just the idea that because something’s in a gallery, instantly it’s art, whereas something somewhere else is not art, is silly and narrow. I’m not interested in narrowing definitions.”