Work of Art – Concept, uses, types and characteristics

We explain what a work of art is and what these types of objects are for. Also, how it can be classified and its characteristics.

Works of art are a product of the so-called Fine Arts.

What is a work of art?

By a work of art or artistic work it is understood an object made using artistic techniques and with an aesthetic or social purpose. In other words, it is traditionally the product of the so-called Fine Arts: painting, sculpture, literature, music, dance, theater, cinema, photography and comics.

However, it is not easy to define a work of art, nor to restrict the use of this expression, which can also be used to metaphorically allude to something very well done, someone very beautiful or simply something that we like too much. And this difficulty is due to the fact that it is also difficult to define art itself.

In fact, the arbitrariness of the criterion regarding what is or is not art, today, is a matter of debate and there is no single, scientific criterion. Art is a historical and social construction, to which transcendental values ​​of human civilization are attributed to him. These can be historical (documentary), aesthetic (technical) or symbolic (social).

Traditionally a work of art is assumed to be an object that represents the most transcendent universal values ​​of humanity, or that in any case entails an important reflection on them. But these criteria are not always met for everyone equally.

Museums, as protective and selecting institutions of the artistic, can be accused of following an ideological, culturalist or some other bias criterion, so their criterion should not be taken as an absolute truth either. Furthermore, due to its nature, many works of art cannot be kept in a museum.

On the other hand, in contemporary times the idea of ​​an artistic work has been subject to criticism and deconstruction, as art proliferates towards more unpredictable and less controllable, more modern and daring variants, less linked to historical tradition. Modern art museums, in fact, are often the scene of such debate, around what may or may not be considered a work.

What is a work of art for?

Works of art remind us of how much we ignore the world and ourselves.

The simplest answer to this question is: not at all. The art does not have a specific purpose to fulfill, a role or a utility. It can be used as decoration, as a historical document or as an exploration of the sensibilities of an era, as one who tries to check which are the most common personal perspectives in a given period.

However, complex as it may seem, works of art have a single and simple purpose: remind us who we are and where we come from, with whom we live in the world and how much we know and how much we ignore about it, and about ourselves.

Types of works of art

We could classify works of art according to the techniques used to make them:

  • Pictorial works. Fruit of painting and drawing or illustration.
  • Sculptural works. Product of sculpture, abstract or figurative.
  • Musical works. Fruit of the musical composition and that can be interpreted by artists with musical instruments.
  • Literary works. Written by authors of literature in their genres: poetry, essays, dramaturgy and narrative.
  • Plays. Directed and staged by a director and performed by actors, based on a script.
  • Cinematographic works. Those that are produced by a team and shot on photosensitive film.
  • Scenic works. Product of other forms of visual art that require a stage.

Characteristics of a work of art

Works of art must be able to be preserved and displayed for generations to come.

Again, it is difficult to establish the characteristics common to any work of art. But let’s agree that a masterpiece should be:

  • Long lasting It must be able to be preserved and displayed for generations to come.
  • Contextual. The work does not exist without its historical context and without everything we can say about it, since all that is precisely what it represents.
  • Symbolic. Works of art do not always contain an explicit message, but rather represent meanings and meanings, that is, they contain implicit messages that we must learn.
  • Valuable Its value is not necessarily measurable in money or precious goods, but has a cultural value, since it is an unrepeatable object.
  • Original. There are no others identical to the work of art, but it is something unique and unrepeatable.

Language of art

Artistic language or language of art is understood as that medium that an art form uses to transmit its contents: painting and sculpture are eminently visual, while cinematography is audiovisual and music merely auditory.

It is called language because art exists only to the extent that it communicates a message, even if that message is not always very clear or easy to decipher.