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Is "art" a subjective term? Can anything really be an art?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/6/2014 Category: Arts
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,739 times Debate No: 48568
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




This is simply an opinion fueled debate, and sources are not going to be a big deal. Just respectful attitudes is the only rule


I'll take the debate.

I bealive that art isn't subjective and that not everything can become art. Due to the shortness of the debate I'm going to ask that the following round structure is followed:

r1: initiating the debate
r2: Opening statements
r3: Rebuttals and closing statement

r1: Acceptance
r2: Opening statements (No rebuttals)
r3: Rebuttals and closing statements. No new information or evidence outside the rebuttals since Pro cannot refute them

you may make your opening case. Good luck and happy debating.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting this debate. I hope to keep it interesting. When someone says 'art' usually, we all think right away of drawing, painting, sculpting, dancing, and music. But, what is art? Never mind the formal definition, many people's definition of art is a craft that is learned, is creative in nature, and something that can only be mastered through learning and technique. If this is the widely accepted definition, than woodworking falls under this category. If this fits a definition for everybody, than most hand using things can be considered art. Photography, painting, sculpting, and woodworking fall under (at least my) the definition of art. But, also, swinging a baseball bat is an art. It requires technique, it is learned, many baseball players have their own unique way of swinging a baseball bat, and it is something that is mastered after learning and using good technique. That is just one example.


Introduction: what is art?

Art is wonderful; we see it wherever we look and it surely must be the pinnacle of human culture. It shows us the imagination and skill of the artist and allows us to vanish into the world created by the art all around us. But how do we define art? Is it defined from the perspective of the audience or the artist? To avoid any semantic debating I overkilled a bit and found as many definitions of art as I could and most agree on the following definition:


The expression of emotions, creativity, imaginations and thoughts; Often to make appealing or atheistically stimulating products.

Or if we're not going to be using the combine definition:

  • 1[MASS NOUN] The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power

    Works produced by human creative skill and imagination

Now, the resolution is a dual resolution:
1) Art is subjective
2) Anything can be art.

Now, the first part of the resolution is a semantic question and will never fully be proven or refuted. I'll touch on it later on but for a while I'll focus on the second part of the resolution: Anything can be art

A pile of laundry is not art

Now, under the conditions put forth by the “official” definitions we can see that there are several criteria that must be met before something can be considered art. Note that it does not have to follow all of the conditions, just that it follows some of them:

  • It must be an expression of emotions

  • it express creativity or imagination or thoughts

  • It must be appealing or atheistically stimulating

  • It must be an expression of human skills

  • It must be produced by skill or imaginations

So, a painting of a person is art, because it shows the imagination of the artist and his skill in creating faces. A stunning house is art for it shows the creativity and skill of the architect. But what about a box? Let's say that I find a random box and place it on a pedestal. Is this art? It hasn't expressed any emotions, it isn't expressing my creativity, it isn't made from my imagination per say. It took no skill to create this piece. In what way is this art apart from me saying so? I don't think so. This is unconventional art, it doesn't fit into the usual definitions of art and I'm going to be hard pressed to findsomeone that will accept it as an art form. So this box isn't art, the second part of the resolution has fallen, or so to speak. I could find countless other examples, but they say a picture says more than a thousand words so fourteen should go well past my character limit:

Now, I'd like to say that there are some clever things in there, but sadly I can't. One of the artworks is a rock in a courner, another is a ball and if I'll ever grow strapped for cash I'll find my belts and stick them on the wall. Don't get me wrong, I'm incredible impressed that the artists managed to find someone to pay thousand of dollars for a few painted mattresses, but the artworks themselves aren't art. They take no skill, they are something that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes by anyone and to be honest you'll need to be famous already or have pretty powerful contacts to be able to sell any of these. By definition none of those things are art and thus we can safely say that the second part of the resolution is false and cannot be defended by pro if the first part of the resolution proves to be false.

The real issue of the debate:

That however draws up an interesting point: If the first part of the resolution is correct, that art is in fact subjective, then the second part of the resolution, again, becomes completely irrelevant. So in order for either party to win that party must show that art is subjective.

Now, Subjective to whom? The artist or the audience? The definition of art suggests that it is objective as we have a bound on what art is: But yet it is an emotional form of communication and definitions might not cut it. This provides us with an interesting paradox: if I'm an artist and create something I consider to be art, yet not a single person seeing the art thinks so, is it art? Is the artist the only one that can decide that his work is art?
I'd say that this example shows us that for something to be considered art at all it has to be accepted as art. So, I cannot create something and call It art, you must agree with me.

Turning things around: If I create something but do not
consider it to be art, and everyone else decides that it is, is it then art? Most likely, art doesn't need to have intention, it needs only be considered art by the audience. This might sound like I'm talking against my own pole, and in a way I am, but bear with me. If art is subjective to the audience, what happens if only a part thinks of an artwork as art? If three persons think my box is art is that enough to counter the two hundredthat do not think that it is art? How about four?

From this we deduct that the emotion of art is subjective, the feelings that art creates and how much art some art is subjective but the art itself is objective; for we use objective ideas to create them. Artists learn to use certain methods to paint, sculptures use objectified methods to sculpt and the human mind is pretty predictable in the things he finds beautiful. In order to create a beautiful artwork we can use pretty objectified ideas to ensure that we hit home. A skillfully painted face; that's certain to become an artwork that is considered beautiful. The human body, that's a rather common artwork. Nature itself, large mountains and mysterious forests, both are
objectified terms. We can look at any artwork and within moments decide if this will appeal to the general public or not. Since we can so quickly decide that something, despite if we like it or not, will appeal to the general public is that not proof of the fact that beauty and art is not subjective? I can look at a painting with a white stripe down the middle and decide “well, I like it, but it is so simple and has so little imagination bound to it I think not many will consider it art.” I can look at a painting of several watches melting down a landscape and think “It's odd, I don't like it, but I cannot paint this and this describes an emotion and creative idea, so people will consider it art.”


Art can cause multiple feelings and ideas with the person that is observing the art and that feeling is subjective and changes from viewer to viewer. But art follows a set of rules on what humans and humankind finds beautiful, finds moving or finds to be skilfully done. Art in itself is objective, the methods we use to create it are passed down generation to generation, the tools remain the same and our ideas of beauty follow a flow of trends, and yet we can always predict what is art and what is not art before seeing it. We can learn to identify works of art that will last for generations and which will fade out once the craze of the money spending art lovers lowers. Art is objective, but the feeling isn't

Debate Round No. 2


I would like to thank my opponent for the response. It was very intelligent and it made me see things a bit differently. The reasoning for me saying art is subjective is that I see things that only a handful of people can do, and I find it creative and unique to how people do it. Pitchers throwing a baseball seems like an art. Each pitcher has their own style, and they have unique ways of throwing a ball. Swimmers have unique and creative way to get from one side of a pool to the other using their own strokes, kicks, and rhythms. The list can go on. Even in my beloved sport of paintball, the way people have designed their guns to look, the way they run and shoot like not many other, the way they crawl, I find unique and artistic in it's own ways. I believe that a pile of clothes is not art because that is not unique. However, beautiful is a subjective word, and if unique beauty is artistic, than anything done in a creative, unique way can be considered art because what one person finds repulsive can be seen as beautiful to another. Art seems to be subjective because it is up to one's personal belief to decide what is beautiful, what is unique, and how creative a piece looks.
Again I would like to thank my opponent for accepting my debate. I probably should have made it a longer debate but I had fun debating my opponent and watching how my opponent has left me dumbfounded and made me think really hard. I enjoyed this debate and I hope the people reading did as well.


My opponent raises a valid and rather good point, that anything that is creative is art, and to a certain extend I agree to that. He also concedes to my notion that a pile of laundry (or any other “lazy” art) isn't art and so he agrees that the second part of the resolution is incorrect. The subjectivity of beauty is correct, but even that is somewhat objective because human nature dictates what we find beautiful and what isn't. Most people will agree on the beauty of something if it appeals to it's culture and nature. We for example see that most art around the world is rather uniform, bound to a cultural perspective. You'll see that Greek and Roman sculptures all have a distinct style that was (and is) considered beautiful. We see that the frescos that marvel the renaissance chapels often have bright colours and a divine perspective that we find beautiful. The methods used to create the beauty is not subjective; and the beauty itself is only partly subjective for human nature is so predictable. I'd like to thank my opponent for the debate and wish him luck with whatever he will undertake in the future.

Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by darkchie 2 years ago
Mmm, i would have to say that a pile of laundry could in fact be art. For example if you look at one of the works of Tracey Emin entitled 'My Bed', Emin presents us with nothing more than an untidy bed surrounded by various personal items such as dirty underwear, sheets, cigarette ends, empty alcohol bottles etc. Whilst you could argue that this could be classed as lazy art you also have the reasoning behind the creation of the work which is Emin giving us an insight into a part of her life where she suffered a mental breakdown. The 'mess' around the bed alluding to the mental state of Emin during this time, the fact that the bed was in fact Emins actual bed and the fact that during this time she spent countless hours suffering in this us such a personal insight into the world of the artist which revolutionises your view of the bed. No longer is it a conglomeration of random items but a personal expression of suffering and pain expressed. Therefor a pile of laundry could very much so 'be art', it could allude to any form of methodology...Identity, Feminism, Social History to name but a few along with being a direct representation of the artists and maybe the perceived role that person has had to take in society in order to progress through life.
Posted by Ozzyhead 2 years ago
I have lost to an exceptional opponent
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Krazzy_Player 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con's reasoning for "Art" was well structured. Pro's arguments were mainly based on assertions and opinions of his own. Source points to Con as only Con used a source