Art is not Subjective
The abrasive, blanketed heading of this article is meant to elicit a strong reaction. If you disagree with the above statement you are not alone. Many people argue that art is subjective, and as the old cliché states, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The quote literally means that beauty is subjective, and while the cliché is in many cases accurate, it is far too broad to be fully accepted at face value.
In order to accurately assess whether art is subjective or objective, we must first delve into the difficult task of defining art. So, without further ado, “What is Art?” Part of the answer lies in what humanity defines as creative endeavors that are observed in works of literature, painting, and musical composition. These are also modes of our entertainment, and the large totality of these works allows us the task of comparison and analysis. Art, however is far more expansive than this and could be said to be very functional. Buildings are works of art and there are many contrasting styles of architecture that set them all apart. The desk that you sit at, the design of your lamp, the curves of your vintage mirror are all examples of functional art, especially if they are well done.
In essence, art is a craft, and just as you may realize the difference in quality between a cheap pair of shoes you bought at a mass retailer contrasted with an expensive, carefully crafted pair of Doc Martens, just so you may realize the difference in quality between two paintings, two novels and two pieces of musical composition.
While perception is surely candidate to change, it is not always wrong when assessing a creative art form, particularly when it has the advantage of comparison. There is a difference between good and bad art, just as there is a difference between good and bad qualities in people (despite what their looks may be). While not every art form merits comparison (due to differences in genre, or artistic intention) it is not difficult to understand why a certain artistic creation is superior to another.
Let’s examine a contemporary art form. If we are to compare HBO’s Game of Thrones to Starz’ Merlin (perhaps a tad unfairly, due to the scope of the material), it is easy to determine that Game of Thrones is a superior show due to richness of content, depth of themes and character development, etc. Might someone enjoy Merlin more due to personal subjectivity or preference? Sure, but that still does not make Merlin better than Game of Thrones.
My following article will argue that art is indeed subjective, but until then, I would love to hear your opinions and arguments. Please leave them below in the comments section. Please be respectful of others’ opinions and try to provide a clear reasoning for your argument.