Art Test

What is art?

Paul Gauguin:
"Art is either plagiarism or revolution."

Many times when I see a piece of "art", I ask myself the question “is this art?”. This question of course relates to other questions: “what is art?”, “what makes something a work of art?”, “what is an artist?”, “should art be beautiful?”.

I have looked up some definitions of art, and based on these I designed a simple test for art. Please send me comments if you can help improve the test.

Note: This page is about graphic art in the form of paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc. It is not about other art forms such as theater, writing, dancing, and music.

Some definitions of Art

The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.

Production and expression of esthetics, creation and expression of representations of beauty (as in painting, music, theater, drawing, sculpting, etc.)

Any human creation which contains an idea other than its utilitarian purpose

Based on esthetics, the act of original creation, by manipulating a medium of public objects or events that serve as deliberately organized sets of conditions, having a definite beginning and end, for an experience in a qualitative mode.

Art is an act of creation, when images and objects, sights and sounds, or drawings and carvings convey the beauty and splendor of the world, or realize the imagination of the artist, for the purpose of self-expression or the shared enjoyment of its creation. Art is that which elevates our interpretation of the world and of ourselves from simple description or narrative to the sublime.

Skill used to produce an aesthetic result.

The use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others

Art is anything that people add to their 'output' which is not functionally necessary and is other than the default properties of that output

Art is a product of an artist.

Art cannot be defined.

Visual art is the skillful presentation of concepts and/or emotions (ideas and feelings) in a form that is structurally (compositionally) satisfying and coherent.

If an artist says it's art, it's art.

Something is a work of art if it is intended as art, presented as such, and judged to be art by those qualified in such matters.

Is a product of creative human effort that carries a message the artists tries to convey, and at least provokes a thinking process or triggers emotion, or appreciation to a certain audience.

Art Test

With all these definitions it is still difficult to decide if something is art. But with the following “art test” we can turn it around and exclude what is not art.


Art or Not Art?
Did the artist pass the art test?

1) Start with an object of which you personally assume that it could be art.

2) Then decide that it is “not art” if one of the following applies.

It is not art:

  • If it was not intended to be art.
  • If it was created by accident.
  • If it was created without skills.
  • If it does not express an idea or feeling.
  • If it was not created by a human.
  • If art critics judge it not to be art.
  • If most people think it is ugly.
  • If museums don’t want it.
  • If the market value is lower than the production cost.
  • If it is a copy of something.

3) Now make the final decision: if it is not “not art”, then it is ART.

Test it with the Art Test

Test it with the Art Test

What do you think?

Please send me your comments. Send me more definitions of art, or suggest other reasons to exclude something from being art.