Conceptual Art and Knowledge
Art need not, and often does not, set out to have aesthetic value.1 This seems true, most of all, of conceptual art; some conceptual artists even produce artworks that, as David Davies has said, 'seem designed to repel rather than seduce one who approaches them with … an aesthetic intent'.2 But if art does not have aesthetic value, then what other kind of artistic value might it aspire to? One possibility is cognitive value, and many conceptual artists (often precisely those who eschew aesthetic value) do claim to produce works with significant cognitive value; roughly speaking, they hold that we can gain substantial knowledge from their artworks.
However, as we will see, there is a view that conceptual art lacks any significant cognitive value. So, if conceptual art does lack aesthetic value, as so much of it unashamedly does, and if it lacks cognitive value, then perhaps it lacks artistic value altogether.3 In that case, we might conclude that the loss of so much conceptual art at the Momart warehouse fire in London on 24 May 2004 ought to be no source of artistic regret—although it might of course be regrettable in other ways, such as for the significant loss of money for the
1 See Binkley 1977: 'Art need not be aesthetic' (272);'… there is no apriori reason why art must
confine itself to the creation of aesthetic objects' (273).
2 Davis 2004: 190.
3 I leave to one side financial value as part of artistic value and, more contentiously perhaps,