Friday, 20 January 2012

Dickie and Danto

"A work of art is an artefact of a kind created to be presented to an art world public." (Dickie, 1984, p.80) This being the case, if one was to find a piece of driftwood belonging to a shipwreck and place it in a gallery as a sculptural work, one could argue that this is not art because it is an artefact not created by an artist to be viewed or presented to an artworld public but merely the result of a disaster at sea. Then again we could argue that by the artist finding the artefact and viewing it as art, they have created a new meaning for it as an object that coincidentally could be considered art due to its visual qualities and by simply placing it in the gallery space.

When we use art in an evaluative sense, to provide a positive evaluation of something we describe something as being ‘a work of art’ because it displays all of the attributes of ‘art’. Most people however, are not interested in the evaluative sense of the word art but rather the classificatory use. For example, if there are both good and bad works of art, how is this classified? If there are no rights or wrongs within art, no good or bad pieces then how are we to criticize? 

The scepticism for defining art changed during the 60’s when a man called George Dickie came up with the Institutional Theory of Art. Dickie believed that it’s the placing of the artwork in an institutionalised framework which makes it art. For example Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ holds a place within the institutionalised space of the art world that a regular urinal does not. Another view relating to George Dickie and the idea of institutional theory was that "to see something as art requires something the eye cannot descry - an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the history of art: an artworld." (Danto, 1964, p. 580)


1. Dickie, G. (1984) The Art Circle: A Theory of Art New York: Haven Publications.
2. Danto, A. (1964) ‘The Artworld’ The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 61, No. 19, American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Sixty-First Annual Meeting. pp. 571-584.