What is art? It’s a question as old as art itself. But maybe it’s the wrong one.
Pablo Picasso famously wrote: “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? … No more importance should be attached to [art] than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can’t explain them.”
Even those well-versed in art criticism and history cannot seem to pinpoint an all-encompassing definition; art is too diverse. In the last 100 years alone, classical notions of artistic accomplishment—resemblance in representation, perspective, and dimension—have been upended by the integration of Brillo boxes, bicycle seats, and shovels in our modern-day artistic encyclopedia.
Art can be defined by beauty, skill, utility, rebellion, and shock value, and therein lies its power.
To examine these qualities in greater detail, we spoke with four Park West Gallery art experts on what the power of art meant to them.
Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director:
“Art created the beginnings of human consciousness, 30,000 years ago, and art made the world. Art has shown us, and continues to show us—amidst the chaos, confusion, horror, and tragedy that surrounds us—that there is still something right in this world.”
John Block, Park West VIP Fine Art Auctioneer:
“Art educates, commemorates, enlightens, emboldens, insults, challenges, hurts, and heals us. Two viewers may derive entirely different messages from it, both equally certain they are correct, and in art they can be. Art is the apex of human creativity; it is the historian and oracle to every generation.”
David Gorman, Park West Gallery Director:
“Art is the purest form of human expression—proof of culture within a civilization—and a promise for a brighter tomorrow. Art is used to move nations, expose societal controversy, and serves as a time capsule for how the world once was—for better or for worse.”
Trista Maltby, Park West Gallery Consultant:
“Historically, art is defined by representation, but it is also defined by its complexities; which is to say that art is anything that ignites inspiration. We find this true with our collectors at Park West Gallery, who find in art something that sings to their soul. That’s what makes art, ‘art’.”