Discuss if the quality of art is subjective.Discuss if the quality of art is subjective.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is one of the most philosophical questions in art.  I don't think that there has been a universally accepted answer to this question, although it has been asked since art has been created.  It cannot be answered here, for every answer to this question only leads to more questions.  Be content with the journey in this question for any answers provided will be arbitrary, at best.

I think that there are a couple of elements in play here.  The first would be that we, as human beings, strive to develop some ability to speak as to what quality of art is pleasing or not.  We wish and yearn to have some voice to say that "_______ is quality art because_______."  The challenge that is present is that the expression of art and the appreciation of it, the experience of art, is a subjective one.  The impact of an art sample will have different levels for different people.  This makes it a subjective experience, in which individuals contend opinions where an "agree to disagree" position has to be adopted.

At the same time, there is a certain danger in trying to externalize the subjective experience.  The artistic notion of the good is tainted with censorship realities or art losing its individualistic appeal and being manipulated into something that it might not have intended to be.  There might be an approach where individuals can discuss different criteria upon which to judge art.  If the discussion of art is criteria based, then the subjectivity of art is still left intact, but meaningful discourse can take place on artistic merit without taking anything from the personal experience away.  Yet, this is still a realm where questions abound and anything close to a resolution is not as present as one would like.

lfawley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Absolutely, the quality of art is subjective. Whenever we judge art, be it a film or a painting, or a play, or a sculpture, we will look at it from our own angle of vision. We bring pur own likes and expectations with us to our understanding of art. Certainly, there are qualities that we can, for the most part, agree on. However, even these are subjective. I may say that a painting that is nothing more that a bunch of splattered color has no quality at all, but to Jackson Pollock and all of his many fans that painting is quality art! This is why, whenever you read what the critics have to say about a fim or a painting or any other work of art, you should still keep an open mind. My background is in the theatre arts and I have learned that many plays that the critics panned I have loved. Now, if the actors are dropping their lines or if the painting is falling apart, then maybe we can say that the quality is poor, but aside from major glaring things like that, it is all subjective.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Old school art theory holds that art is purely objective. There are definitions and standards of beauty, form, line, color, light, subject. New school holds that art is wholly subjective. Art is purely an expression of individual, inner experience and a communication of energy that may (or may not) impact a viewer in theoretically unlimited ways emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually, intellectually. The question really is: Do you hold to Old School or embrace New School?

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If art is so subjective, how is it that some paintings have been recognized by multitudinous countries and ages as superb?  Art is not absolutely or totally subjective.  If it were, there would not be so many people responding to it in similar ways.  Granted, there is subjectivity to art as the personal expression of the artist and there are personal preferences for one style or another.  But with form and line and perspective and different schools or thought that establish certain criteria, there are degrees of objectivity. 



Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Art is totally subjective. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is art. We know that's true on every level--in our own homes as well as what the National Endowment for the Arts determines to be art. Feces and urine and blood are probably never going to be considered art to me, but certainly there are some who appreciate the messages of such elements in paintings or whatever. Just like literature and music--and probably a million other things--rt is subjective.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the posts who argue that the quality of art is subjective.  It may be, as Post 5 argues, that there is merit in the old school view of art.  There may be general rules that a painting, for example, should adhere to in order to be of high quality.  However, I do not think that there is any way to simply quantify what makes a good painting or a bad one.  I think that it is very much in the eye of the beholder.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Art of all kinds is absolutely subjective. Some musicians prefer Beethoven, some love Dolly Parton, some adore Queen. Artists may advocate for Renoir, Wheeler, or Warhol. It's the same with sculpture, dance, theater, and other performance-based activities.  There may be standards and expectations established, but personal interpretation and reaction will always play a huge role.

truthseekah | Student

Without a doubt, art is subjective.  As a culture we are continually reinventing the scope of what we define as art.

As an individual you may be inately drawn to a style of sculpture or it may envoke a powerful emotion.  You may also appreciate the historical significance a painting has caused or encapsulated.  At first you may love a theatrical performance, but when you learn the metaphorical or political undertones, you may abhor that production.  Art is as unique as your consciousness.