Quotes about what is art

Art definitions from the artists and art professionals of today

Art as we know it barely exists for more than one hundred years. We group here the result of a constant veil: What is this art and its purpose? Exit the old quotes from Picasso and Van Gogh everyone is spamming on the Internet. Everything here is actual and from persons implicated, dealing with the art notion every day.


How do you define art?

quotes about what is art

Freedom or privilege

“Art is everything you don’t have to do”
-Brian Eno
Architectural Association – School of Architecture (Dec 2016)

quotes about what is art

Popular Art, Avant-garde art

Popular art is made for a population consisting of spectators. Avant-garde art is made for a population consisting of artists.”
-Boris Groys “The Weak Universalism”

quotes about what is art

Artist’s own things

“I think that art is cool because you can create your own things.
When I started art, I thought it was just about making it perfect, but you don’t have to care what other people say. That can still mean art to you.”
-Damilola, What is Conceptual Art? | Tate Kids

quotes about what is art

Outside of what we already know

“Entertainment, what distinguishes it is that it happens within what we already know. Whatever our reaction: laughing, crying, getting excited… Underneath it, entertainment says “yep, the world is the way you think it is it”. And it feels great, man I love having highly skilled people or great technology or cool interesting things confirming my sense of the way things are fantastic, worth big money.


“What distinguishes art is that it happens outside of what we already know. Inherent in the artistic experience is the capacity to expand our sense of the way the world is or might be.”
-Eric Booth, Carnegie Hall

quotes about what is art

A deeper purpose

“Both artist and audience make up a work of art. Each one of us needs to come to an understanding of its deeper purpose. An artwork is not complete until it is received by others. Art lives in our response. The spectator, the listener, is as important as the doer.”
-Helen Martineau, Prodigal daughters

quotes about what is art

Distortion of our sense of value

“There are people who think precisely because art is imaginary in some way, it isn’t real and it isn’t useful in some way, is a kind of mirage that distorts our sense of value. Famously Plato had his doubts about poetry and about certain kinds of art-making.”

Ponzi scheme

“There is a long tradition of suspicion that art, first of all, is a conceit among a very small group of human beings who try to make themselves superior through a kind of Ponzi scheme of values that they all inhabit and they exclude other people from. It’s a Ponzi scheme because it really has no value at the end of the day.”
-Leon Bolstein, Art Now (Aesthetics Across Music, Painting, Architecture, Movies, and More.) Bigthink

quotes about what is art

A human being doing something

“By art obviously Marcel Duchamp nude descending a staircase, obviously Pablo Picasso, clearly Jackson Pollock, this is art: a human being doing something – it might not work – that connects us and draws us closer.”
-Seth Godin “Your Job is to Make Art – Seth Godin” at ConvertKit Craft & Commerce 2017

quotes about what is art

General interest in art

“It seems that many people have the feeling that only elite experts are allowed to have a real opinion on art.
This uncertainty of having your own opinion is shown quite well. A statistic which I saw in a presentation of art historian Magnus Resh: he presented that from 2007 to 2017 the number of annually sold artworks decreased by 20% and this even though the number of millionaires has more than doubled in the same time. So the problem is not the money and the problem is not the general interest in art.”

Definition of few experts

“I think the problem is a disconnection between the majority of people and an art world which seems to be determined by a few experts. if we would fix this disconnection and give people more confidence in their own view on art everybody would profit. In the end, only people who address their own opinion will enjoy and buy an artwork.”
-Tim Bengel, Tedx Mannheim

quotes about what is art

A kid defines art

The best answer I’ve ever heard was from an 8-year-old. And this was, of course, a very smart guy, very bright little kid, I was having dinner at my friend’s house. And this kid was just incredible and we were talking back and forth. I asked him, and without even thinking about it, he says, “Art is when you draw the heart of something.”

Amazing art definition

“And I said, “Oh, wow.” I mean, oh my God, this is amazing, you know. It was beautiful. So why should I ask anyone else?”
-Victor Hugo Zayas, Art Center College Of Design

quotes about what is art

Covid-19 and art?

“It’s not easy to contemplate an artwork without touching your face”
-Brian Droitcour’s twitter “Standard definition”

Purpose of Art

quotes about what is art

Art about art

“I was really tired of art about art.“
It’s very, a strange idea about human imagination that actually art is only permissible by what has just happened in the generation before. Life isn’t like that.”


“If we think about Mondrian, or Kandinsky, or even somebody like Klee. They were trying to find a language that really was universal. That could somehow re-animate life, by giving us things that we could relate to immediately.”
-Antony Gormley
“Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation with Antony Gormley”
– Dec 20, 2014, Zentrum Paul Klee

quotes about what is art

Art business

“The business of the modern artist is itself an exemplary form of cutting-edge enterprise: dependent on brand-identity, self-commodification, opportunism, novelty, relentless networking, and a heavily blurred line between life and work.”
-Ben Jeffery
“Ancient Curse” article about Michel Houellebecq “The Map and the Territory” Nplusone magazine

quotes about what is art

Art as a set of relationships

Art does not exist in itself; it is an outcome of a complex set of relationships between what one is allowed to say, to perceive, and to understand. Events and objects only exist within the fabric of discourse and are perceived as art, or a revolution in art, only within this fabric.

The Sensible

Art is a work on the distribution of the sensible. Sometimes, but not very often, it rearranges the set of perception between what is visible, thinkable, and understandable, and what is not. This is the politics of art. I always try to question mainstream ideas on this subject, especially the assumption that artists’ work can have precise, intended effects. When practices of art affect the sensible, it is not simply as a result of artists’ intentions.

-Jacques Rancière

-Versobooks “The Politics of Art” Interview by Anna Wójcik

quotes about what is art

Lubrification of the engine of humanity

“In a way, art is like lubrication for the engine of humanity. Without art, the engine would just run and it would quickly burn itself out because you might think like well an engine is very mechanical it’s got these hard edges and it just kind of works very mechanically and robotically. That’s true but also without that organic component of oil lubricating all the parts how quickly will your engine break almost instantly you see you need that lubrication you need that sort of soft-touch.”

Artists making an impact

“That’s what art provides of course for artists making an impact in the world is a very important thing and many of them actually get caught in this trap of seeking approval where they start to lose sight of their art and the reason they got into the art for the first place which is to have their spiritual connections”
-Leo Gura, Understanding The Essence Of Art – actualized

quotes about what is art


“Art Should Be Immune to Political Correctness”
-Scarlett Johansson Asifmagazine – GettyImages

quotes about what is art

It can be pathetic

“Art is free. It adds richness to lived experience; it can be the icing on the cake without having to save any lives or the world. It can get lost and it can fail beautifully. It can be pathetic and that’s why I love it.”
-Stuart Semple, Flaunt Magazine
-Interview by Melissa Mellati, photo Sarah Morris

Value of Art

quotes about what is art

What it looks like

“We are in the postmodern era now, we’re in the crisis of meaning. The crisis of representation is watercolours and Cape Cod which I have nothing against, but if your art is only about what it looks like it probably isn’t art. So maybe you should sell that and have a steak dinner.”

Awesome project

“I didn’t think about what do I need to do to make an art project, how do I commercialize this, how do I make this an art or commercial project. I thought about how do I make this an awesome project. And then the thing that happened that was like the bonus was that awesome wasn’t awesome for my portfolio, it wasn’t awesome for my reel, it was awesome for somebody else, and that is work worth doing.
-Marc Premo, Creative Mornings HQ, Jan 3, 2016

quotes about what is art

It has to surprise you

“I know that sounds harsh and confrontational but if art doesn’t surprise you, then all it is doing is reassuring you and reconfirming your prejudices.”

What art should do

  • “It’s a way of talking without language,
  • it’s a way of speaking almost directly heart to heart, mind to mind,
  • it’s a way of combating loneliness, that all of us can think that we are always isolated,
    that only you who thinks these things, it’s only me who feels these things, it’s only me who has ideas like that, there must be something wrong with me.”

Connecting human beings

Then you see a piece of art and it makes you less alone, it makes you realize “Hey, somebody else has that idea which I almost had that couldn’t express that well or it took a thing that connects human beings that’s what art is for. It’s not there as a commodity and something to bring in huge amounts of money that are as inflated as most football players wages.”

quotes about what is art

Monetary value of art

“I’ve experienced this my entire career, it’s extremely frustrating that people who only begin to value the work once it has literally a higher value, a monetary value that is higher. And that’s especially true with women artists. We’ve seen this over and over again that for decades their work is completely ignored and then for whatever reason, there is a shift and perception and with that shift in and the price structure and suddenly everybody’s interested.”

Consequences on art pricing

“I don’t think we ever begin to work with an artist thinking out it would affect their market. It’s completely not what’s on our mind. But it would be naive to say that we’re completely unconscious of what these ramifications are.”
-Jessica Morgan Director Dia Art foundation
Interview artload

quotes about what is art

Art crime

  1. “Art and antiques are easy to store and transport;
  2. Rare art can be worth millions, which means it is a great mechanism to store and transfer wealth;
  3. Art can be stored safely in custom-built, highly-secure warehouses (normally in Free Ports or Free Trade Zones) which means that criminals assets are secure; 
  4. Art and antiques tend to appreciate in value, which means that money is not lost in the laundering process, it’s actually gained;
  5. There are no asset registers for art so the ownership and exchange of fine art and antiques are very hard to trace.”

-Alexon Bell, Quantexa
“Deploying innovative technology could help combat the dark art of money laundering”

quotes about what is art

Fewer, better things

“So the reason it’s (The book) called a “Fewer, Better Things” is that I had this idea that if we’re going to carry on in our economy and in our artistic lives and in general, particularly given the realities of climate change, we’re going to have to find a way to instill a smaller number of objects with a greater amount of value.

Growth economy

So we’re going to have to somehow persuade ourselves as a culture not to keep producing more and more and more and more, but instead to produce less and then to do more things with those fewer objects. You know, realistically, you can’t just say to the economy, I’m tired now. I want to stop and get off. We live in a growth economy. This is capitalism.”
-Glenn Adamson, ThinkCraft: Glenn Adamson Keynote

quotes about what is art

The Artist and the Criminal

“The only important
elements in any society
are the artistic and the criminal,
because they alone,
by questioning the society’s values,
can force it to change”
-Samuel R. Delany “The Empire Star”

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