Art is what an artist makes, but, is everything that an artist makes art?
In his role as homo faber, an artist may at times be commissioned to create something that serves a practical function; a door handle for example. When it’s the work of an artisan it will always be considered an “object”, but when the creator is an artist and that object also possesses aesthetic qualities in addition to a functional one? Is it art or does serving a practical purpose undermine its status? In other words, in order to be ART is it necessary for the object to be useless?
By now art pour l’art is definitely passé. More often than not when visiting important international exhibitions one gets the impression that art’s social and political function has usurped its aesthetic qualities as the defining characteristic of a work. If this is true, why can’t we change the criteria yet again and declare that it is a work’s functional quality rather than social that is now the determining factor? Returning to the initial question, as long as it has certain aesthetic qualities, does an artist’s creation remain a work of art regardless of whatever practical function it might serve?
Cattelan’s “America”, which much to the surprise of the visitors is a perfectly functioning, gold toilet installed in a bathroom in the Guggenheim Museum, has received particular attention from art critics because of its being the creation of an internationally recognized artist (rather than a plumber)! His is undoubtedly a provocation, but it is also a work of art?