Craft Does Not Make Art - It Takes Originality
As a debate, "what is art" prefigures most art. France's celebrated prehistoric cave paintings probably had assorted cavemen raising their clubs as they declared: "I may not know much about art but I know what I like." And within the last couple of weeks, there has been an earnest debate in the pages of The Independent on the nature of art. This was sparked by Sir Richard Eyre's polemic on the subject, in which he said, among many other things, that art "makes us look at the world differently".
But while such debates address plays, music and dance, never are they so fierce than with the visual arts and modern art in particular. It started arguably in 1917 with Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain", in reality a urinal. Duchamp said his intent with the piece was to shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation. It continued through the cubism of Picasso to Damien Hirst's shark, Martin Creed's flickering light bulb and Tracey Emin's bed.
The conceptualism of the last 20 years, venerated in successive Turner Prize exhibitions, has ensured the debate Duchamp started never really ended. Duchamp's argument was that it is no longer just the craftsmanship but how we interpret a work and how we are inspired by it, whether it uplifts the soul or gives us insights into ourselves and the world. …