Do you believe that art is offensive? Do you believe that art is offensive? What does this have to do with where in the world you may be? specifically: Florence, Italy

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Art is not offensive by default, it seems to me. I would say categorically that something does not have to be offensive to qualify as art. I expect this will be the majority opinion. 

Art can be offensive. Again, if we are working on the level of semantics, I would say that something can be offensive (and/or ugly) and still be art. 

Art is about expression. Art is an attempt to communicate, represent, or explore ideas and emotions.

According to Wikipedia, art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolicsignificance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the sensesemotions, and intellect

This definition allows for work of all sorts, from beautiful to profane. If we want to insist that art is aesthetically defined, I think we have to say then that aesthetic sensibilities are not necessarily concerned with beauty, but with "goodness" - a looser notion than beauty. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 Picasso's Guernica comes to mind regarding this question.  While many were offended by his depiction of the ravages of war, especially when such an attack was so cruel.  A Basque country village in northern Spain, Guernica  was bombed by German airplanes at the behest of the Spanish government during a civil war. The cubist depiction of confused parts of animals and humans creates an oppressive scene that describes the horrors of war. 

While the Spanish government commissioned Picasso to create a painting for the Spanish Exhibit of the World's Fair, officials did not expect to view Picasso's angry interpretation of the government's actions. Consequently, they, the oppressors were offended by the artist's work.  Was the painting/Is the painting offensive? Or is the interpretation of this painting dependent upon who views it?

So often art is truly "in the eye of the beholder." However, some works painted or drawn solely for their prurient interests are certainly questionable as "art."

Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, some art is considered offensive to people, depending on their tastes and the message they feel is being conveyed by the art. I find some art offensive myself - usually when I feel this way I believe the art is in bad taste. However, that doesn't mean I'm right and others are wrong - it just means we have different ways of looking at things. This is what makes art invigorating as artists are constantly pushing the envelope, trying to get us to see their ideas in a different way. It sure makes for some interesting trips to art exhibits, displays, and galleries!

Great Artists of America

Art Gallery of Ontario


Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, now, that's the question, isn't it? If something called art is truly offensive, truly obscene, vulgar, degrading to humanity and human dignity, is it art, regardless of what it calls itself? Sadly, in this particular moment of this milieu in history, there is only opinion on this question and no definitive answer. Dr. Peter Kramer, psychologist and radio show host for NPR, wants to provide a definitive answer in his book Against Depression. He presents compelling evidence through neurophysics to support his assertions. How broadly his definitive notion has been accepted or may be accepted still remains to be seen.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can't see how art in and of itself could be offensive.  Of course, some art could well be offensive.  However, just because some art is offensive does not mean that art as a concept is offensive.

My personal opinion is that artists often try too hard to be offensive.  I think that they feel that anything that offends people is automatically great art because it supposedly confronts people's narrow views of the world.  I do not, however, agree.  I think that it is possible to be provocative without being offensive and I think that the greatest artists are able to negotiate this line.

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some pieces of art are offensive to some individuals, certainly; one of the motivations of many artists is to make the viewer think. If all art was beautiful and universally acceptable, no one would think about it, and pretty soon no one would notice it either. We are so bombarded by inputs from the world that sometimes it may take quite a jolt to get someone to slow down and really look at something, to really think about it. Art that is offensive can be one way that this happens.

trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In Florence Italy, the famous David sculpture is there in all its glory. It is a naked sculpture of a young boy about to slay the giant. However, his body is depicted more like a man, than a boy. It is marvelous and the skin looks alive even though it is stone. Is it offensive? Is the human form offensive? It depends on your culture, values, beliefs, even religious persuasion. For me, it was beautiful, amazing and awe-inspiring that someone could create something so life-like!
shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is certainly possible for some art to be offensive. We have different sensibilities and worldviews. Any sort of expression that clashes violently with our sensibility or worldview is apt to "offend us." That's okay. In  fact, some artists probably seek to offend us, if only to shake us up a little bit and make us look at things differently.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Art is always a case of being seen in the eye of the beholder, and different people will always have different interpretations of art. I occasionally view art that is somewhat offensive in my eyes, but I would never advocate its censure, removal or destruction.
Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like others have said, I don't find art as a whole offensive; however, I do find individual peices of art offensive from time to time.  With that being said, what is offensive to me might be beautiful to someone else, so everything is relative.

nicole8923 | Student

Personally, i don't believe that art is offensive. Art is a way of expression and though some people may have an opinion about it, it ultimately matters to the artist. Everyone has a different view on things, so depending on the person, it may be a controversial topic. 

arrellbelle | Student

Art doesn't always have to be comforting to the viewer. Art can be anything the artist wants it to be, in all honesty. There were art forms back than, like Andy Warhol's Pop Art, that weren't considered art and was considered an abomination because it didn't fit in with the traditional views at the time, but it is considered a major form of art now. There are still some art styles that many people find controversy in, like graffiti.

abadoodle | Student

Art is not something that is meant to be offensive. Art is a visual representation  of the artist's emotions and opinions. If the art is offensive to you, the artist didn't intend it to be. But, yes it is quite possible for art to offend you, but everyone has different opinions. Artists don't create work based off of what they think will offend people, but if it offends a person, that is not their fault.

suzannah304 | Student

I agree with post#2. It is said that beauty lies in the eyes of beholder so it's only how one sees art. If we view it as a beauty it can't be offensive.