Institutional theory of art

The institutional theory of art is a theory about the nature of art that holds that an object can only be(come) art in the context of the institution known as “the artworld”.

Addressing the issue what makes, for example, Marcel Duchamp’s “readymades” art, or why a pile of Brillo cartons in a supermarket is not art, whereas Andy Warhol’s famous Brillo Boxes (a pile of Brillo carton replicas) is, the art critic and philosopher Arthur Danto wrote in his 1964 essay “The Artworld”:

To see something as art requires something the eye cannot descry—an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the history of art: an artworld.[1]

According to Robert J. Yanal, Danto’s essay, which coined the term “artworld”, outlined the first institutional theory of art.[2]

Versions of the institutional theory were formulated more explicitly by George Dickie in his article “Defining Art” (American Philosophical Quarterly, 1969) and his books Aesthetics: An Introduction (1971) and Art and the Aesthetic: An Institutional Analysis (1974). An early version of Dickie’s institutional theory can be summed up in the following definition of work of art from Aesthetics: An Introduction:

A work of art in the classificatory sense is 1) an artifact 2) upon which some person or persons acting on behalf of a certain social institution (the artworld) has conferred the status of candidate for appreciation.[3]

Dickie has reformulated his theory in several books and articles. Other philosophers of art have criticized his definitions as being circular.[4]

via Institutional theory of art – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

George Dickie – Art and Audience

George Dickie – Art and AudiencePeople Visiting Art MuseumGeorge Dickie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois in Chicago, postulated a theory about the relationship between art and the audience meant to receive it. His theory set about to define what art actually is and the context in which it applies to society. According to Dickie, art is something that is consciously presented to an audience with the intention of it being art. He does not seek to determine how this art is made; he gives no qualifications about what it takes exactly to make something art. What is important is the person presenting the piece. If they do not present the piece as art, the piece is not art. It is only based on the intentions that a work can become art.By the same token, however, the audience, which receives the artwork, is just as important. In order for something to be truly art, it needs to be shown to a group of people who have the ability to understand it and the intentions of the artist. They do not necessarily have to understand the theme of the work or, even to truly accept it as art. Having the potential to accept the work as art, though, is important. Without the audience, the work simply remains as a work and does not truly become art.This definition is actually rather broad in what it aims to accomplish. It simply states that unless an artist is consciously presenting a piece as art, it is not that. By turn, if the audience is not able to accept the piece as a work of art, it is not art. Therefore, a painting submitted to a field of cows is not art, but the same painting in a gallery would be.Photo: Courtesy of Hibino

via George Dickie – Art and Audience.