High art…low art


Is “art” really in the eye of the beholder? The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (“What is art?” 1896) believed that the sole purpose of art was to express moral values, not to simply express form and beauty. That’s his opinion…but what about “art for art’s sake” for goodness sake? And what is it that separates kitsch from mass-produced pop art by Andy Warhol? Economists would say that “scarcity confers value” — meaning that unsigned, un-numbered photocopies of Warhol’s greatest pop art are almost worthless, whereas a crusty old 2nd-rate oil painting by Turner or Rubens is deemed priceless. Does “art” only become valuable when it is purchased by some very wealthy art collector, or does it have some other inherent value? How do we know?

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