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Essay about Art History

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ART
__-history, __-theory, __-world
(Accounting for modern art with Dickie, Danto, and Weitz)
     Up until the twentieth century art theorists had consistently sought for a definition of art—a definition that would determine a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be called art. But artists in the 20th century did not want to be defined, and they deliberately tried to create artworks that would not fit under some theorist’s umbrella. We saw the Beatniks with their free verse; we saw the pop art of Andy Warhol; we saw the rise of abstractionist and surrealist painters; we saw “happenings”, and we saw “ready-made” art, all of which combined to make the finding of a definition of art almost impossible. It’s not a surprise that some theorists just gave up and argued that a definition of art, or an umbrella theory, was non-essential at least, and at most not possible. The artworks in themselves in the 20th century were too radical to fit a definition, so an attempt was made to turn the focus away from the artwork itself and instead focus on the “artworld”—the institutional/historical world that was the practical force for deciding where the line between art and non-art was and how it moved. This essay seeks to explain the theories of Weitz, Danto and Dickie, how they relate to one another, how they changed the focus of art theory from the artwork itself to the “artworld”, and the problems that an institutional/historical theory of art runs into.
Both the theories of Arthur Danto and George Dickie are influenced by Morris Weitz’s theory, so it is fitting to begin with Weitz. Weitz espoused a kind of anti-theory. He got fed up with all the aesthetic theorists that kept on arguing that previous theorists had it all wrong and that they had it right. Weitz believed that aesthetic theories throughout history tried in vain to come up with the “correct” necessary and sufficient set of conditions that would be able to fully answer the question: “What is the nature of art?” Thus, Weitz steps up to the plate and says, “Aesthetic theory—all of it—is wrong in principle in thinking that a correct theory is possible because it radically misconstrues the logic of the concept of art (184).” Weitz believes that the concept of art is an “open” one, in which case the “logic” of this concept is precisely one which requires that it rema...


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...ain, it seems quite possible that anyone who educates themselves enough about the conventional framework of the artworld necessarily becomes part of that public in which case the standard of judgment becomes similar to that of Weitz’s and Danto’s theories, i.e. the standard of judgment can be obtained through the acquisition of an education of aesthetic theory, history, and criticism.
So, before taking this class I had virtually no art history or art theory, but now I have a nice overview of art theory through history, in which case my ability to make judgments about art has definitely been elevated. However, I don’t feel that just because I have the knowledge offered by this class that I am now magically part of the artworld public. In order to be able to claim that I am part of the artworld public, I must take up a specific role; I must acquire a genuine “eye” for art—a desire to experience it, take serious interest in it, critique it, and buy it. In other words, I can read all the books on art that I want and not be considered part of the artworld public until I make use of that knowledge through participation in one of the many roles in any of the individual artworld systems.


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