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What is an Artwork?

A work of art is the result of the creation of an Artist. It is generally attached to a particular field (painting, music, sculpture, photography etc.), an artistic movement (classicism, romanticism, Dadaism etc.) and has aesthetic or conceptual qualities. This seemingly "simple" definition nevertheless raises major questions about what Art is and what an Artist is. Can we find commonalities in all works of art to help us touch their essence?

A product of human activity

Art is a product of human activity, the results of which are works of art. It is rooted in freedom, contrary to nature which "produces" in a "mechanical" way. If we find moonlight beautiful, it is not a work of art; conversely if "The starry night" is one, it is because it has a creator, in this case the painter Vincent Van Gogh. Even when works of art are created on demand, or tied to standards, like it was the case for centuries, the creators still have the possibility of expressing a part of themselves and their relationship to the world. Whether the Artist is considered a creative genius or a hard-working enthusiast, there is always a mind, a heart and a hand behind a work of art. Sometimes even several, in the case of collectives of artists who work together. In your opinion, what sine qua non condition has been retained by the French tax authorities for a painting to be qualified as a work of art? That it is entirely executed by the hand of the Artist, that is to say the importance of this criterion, even if these are practical considerations. The words "Artist" and "Artisan" are historically very close, as underlined by their common etymological root (from the Latin ars, artis which means "skill, trade, technical knowledge"). Both designated, until the 18th century, a "tradesman". A masterpiece was, originally, a capital and difficult achievement that a companion of duty had to succeed in order to become a master in his profession. Today, a distinction is made, and if an artist is a craftsman in the sense that he masters certain techniques, that is not enough to qualify his production as a work of art.

A particular creation

The Artist not only manufactures, he creates. This is why an industrial or commercial design is not considered a work of art. Same for a creation made for a purely educational or therapeutic purpose, which does not prevent artistic creation from conveying a message or having a liberating dimension. Disinterested, borrowing from the personality of its creator, inspiring, both for the spectators and for the artistic community; here are some key criteria that could be used to qualify a production as a work of art, even if the borders are not indisputable. We could also evoke the originality of a work of art, in the sense that it is not a copy of the existing one. It is also impossible to know in advance what the finished Artwork will look like. The Artists, even they have made preliminary sketches, create and correct their work according to their judgment, their sensitivity, their taste, and not according to a detailed engineer's plan. The work of art also often has an exemplary character, in the sense that it becomes a reference and a source of inspiration. Some thinkers would even add that a work of art has an "inexplicable" part, even mystery, so difficult is it to know how artists can materialize their imagination and how it can resonate with the ones who contemplate it.

Art evolves, works of art remain

If contemporary art has shaken up the world of Fine Arts, certain fundamentals remain. A work of art has no utilitarian function strictly speaking, unlike a craft or industrial object, except for the pleasure of contemplation that it generates. A product produced industrially or reproduced on a large scale can only attain the status of a work of art if it is detached from its primary use and put into perspective in an original way. In this sense the work of art remains unique, even if Pop Art changed the rules of the artistic game by using industrial techniques to produce and even reproduce works, clashing with the classic notion of "unique piece". If the aesthetic value is no longer the only criterion for evaluating a work of art, there remains the emotion, positive or destabilizing, that it arouses in the viewer. Why is a cave painting still able to move us today? By what magic can an African mask touch beyond borders and cultures? Why can a Renaissance portrait question us and make us stop short in a museum? Even an ephemeral work such as that resulting from Land Art or a Happening-type performance has the theoretical capacity to touch the spectators again, if we could make them relive the moment, or, failing that, show them a transcription. But what about works created by artificial intelligence? Will the algorithms modify artistic creation in depth or will they only be new tools made available to Artists?

Discover Bodjaro's Artworks

A Selection of Unique and Original Artworks, painted in France by talented Contemporary Artists.
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