Work of art

Work of art
The Tribune of the Uffizi, Johann Zoffany (1772-78), showing many famous works of European art
The Great Mosque of Kairouan (also called the Mosque of Uqba) is one of the finest, most significant and best preserved architectural examples of early great mosques; it is the ancestor and model of all the mosques in the western Islamic lands.[1] The Great Mosque of Kairouan is located in the city of Kairouan in Tunisia.
Sculpture garden of the National Gallery, Canberra with graveposts from Vanuatu

A work of art, artwork, art piece, or art object is an aesthetic item or artistic creation. The term "a work of art" can apply to:

The term "objets d′art" can be a synonym, a popularized version for interior design commerce, or a vulgarism of pretension. This article is concerned with the "work of art" term and concept as used in and applied to the visual arts, although other fields such as aural-music and written word-literature have similar issues and philosophies.

The term oeuvre is used to describe the complete body of work completed by an artist during their career.[2]



Chinese Jade ornament with grapes vine, (1115–1234 CE)
Leadlight window from the 1920s
Gold and enamel purse clasp, Saxon

A work of art in the visual arts is a physical two or three dimensional object that is professionally determined or popularly considered to fulfill a primarily independent aesthetic function. A singular art object is often seen in the context of a larger art movement or artistic era, such as: a genre, aesthetic convention, culture, or regional-national distinction.[3] It can also be seen as an item within an artist's "body of work" or oeuvre. The term is commonly used by: museum and cultural heritage curators, the interested public, the art patron-private art collector community, and art galleries.[4]

Physical objects that document immaterial or conceptual art works, but do not conform to artistic conventions can be redefined and reclassified as art objects. Some Dada and Neo-Dada conceptual and readymade works have received later inclusion. Also, some architectural renderings and models of unbuilt projects, such as by Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Frank Gehry, are other examples.

The products of environmental design, depending on intention and execution, can be "works of art" and include: land art, site-specific art, architecture, gardens, landscape architecture, installation art, rock art, and megalithic monuments.


Marcel Duchamp critiqued the idea that the objet d’art should be a unique product of an artist's labour, representational of their technical skill and/or artistic caprice.[5] Theorists have argued that objects and people do not have a constant meaning, but their meanings are fashioned by humans in the context of their culture, as they have the ability to make things mean or signify something.[6]

Artist Michael Craig-Martin, creator of An Oak Tree, said of his work - "It's not a symbol. I have changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree. I didn't change its appearance. The actual oak tree is physically present, but in the form of a glass of water." [7]


The original Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, 1917, photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at his 291 after the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit.

Some art theorists and writers have long made a distinction between the physical qualities of an art object and its identity-status as an artwork.[8] For example, a painting by Rembrandt has a physical existence as an "oil painting on canvas" that is separate from its identity as a masterpiece "work of art" or the artist's magnum opus.[9] Many works of art are initially denied "museum quality" or artistic merit, and later become accepted and valued in museum and private collections. Works by the Impressionists and non-representational abstract artists are examples. Some, such as the "Readymades" of Marcel Duchamp including his infamous 'urinal "Fountain'", are later reproduced as "museum quality replicas".

There is an indefinite distinction, for current or historical aesthetic items: between "fine art" objects made by "artists"; and folk art, craft-work, or "applied art" objects made by "first, second, or third-world" designers, artisans and craftspeople. Contemporary and archeological indigenous art, industrial design items in limited or mass production, and places created by environmental designers and cultural landscapes, are some examples. The term has been consistently available for debate, reconsideration, and redefinition.

See also


  1. ^ John Stothoff Badeau and John Richard Hayes, The Genius of Arab civilization: source of Renaissance. Taylor & Francis. 1983. p. 104
  2. ^ Oeuvre Merriam Webster Dictionary , Accessed April 2011
  3. ^ Gell, Alfred (1998). Art and agency: an Anthropological Theory. Clarendon Press. p. 7. ISBN 0198280149. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  4. ^ Macdonald, Sharon (2006). A Companion to Museum Studies. Blackwell companions in cultural studies. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 52. ISBN 1405108398. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hall, S (ed.) 1997, Cultural Representations and Signifying Practice, Open University Press, London, 1997.
  7. ^ "There's No Need to be Afraid of the Present", The Independent, 25 Jun 2001
  8. ^
  9. ^

Further reading

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • work of art — plural works of art n 1.) a painting, ↑sculpture etc of high quality 2.) something that is very attractive and skilfully made often used humorously ▪ That cake s a real work of art! …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • work of art — (plural ,works of art) noun count 1. ) something such as a painting or SCULPTURE that is of very high quality 2. ) something that is made or done in a skillful or attractive way: Her house is a real work of art …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Work Of Art — Single par Demi Lovato extrait de l’album Sonny (Bande Originale) Sortie 1er Octobre 2010. Enregistrement …   Wikipédia en Français

  • work of art — work′ of art′ n. 1) fia a piece of creative work in the arts, esp. a painting or sculpture 2) a product that gives aesthetic pleasure apart from any utilitarian considerations • Etymology: 1825–35 …   From formal English to slang

  • work of art — ► NOUN ▪ a creative product with strong imaginative or aesthetic appeal …   English terms dictionary

  • work of art — n. 1. something produced in one of the fine arts, esp. in one of the graphic or plastic arts, as a painting, sculpture, carving, etc. 2. anything made, done, performed, etc. with great skill and beauty …   English World dictionary

  • Work of Art — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

  • work of art — works of art 1) N COUNT A work of art is a painting or piece of sculpture which is of high quality. ...a collection of works of art of international significance. 2) N COUNT A work of art is something which is very complex or which has been… …   English dictionary

  • work of art — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms work of art : singular work of art plural works of art 1) something such as a painting or sculpture that is of very high quality 2) something that is made or done in a skilful or attractive way Her house is a… …   English dictionary

  • work of art — noun plural works of art (C) 1 a painting, sculpture etc of very high quality 2 often humorous something that is very attractive and skilfully made: That cake s a real work of art! …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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