The Nature of Art

Suppose you find a beautiful rock formation while out in the woods. Experts study it and declare that it is a statue made by a primitive and now extinct group of people. So, you donate it to an art museum, where it sits for many years and is admired by many people. Then new evidence is uncovered that shows that it is a natural rock formation, made by rain dropping from a cave wall. Can the rock formation still be art? Should it be moved from the Museum of Art to the Museum of Natural History? What do you think you will say when you look at it again? Do you think it will look any different to you than it did when you first saw it?

Seeing Beauty

Imagine you are on a tour of an art museum. The guide stops your group in front of a painting, “Isn’t it beautiful?” she asks. You look at your friend Alec and shrug your shoulders. He says, “Whatever.” The guide is determined to get you to agree with her, so she says, “See how bright the colous are.” Alec responds, “I see the colours, but I don’t see the beauty.” The guide grows frustrated: “But, see how energetic the lines are.” Alec responds, “I see the lines, but where is the beauty?” The guide has one last try: “Look at how the composition is balanced.” Your friend says, “OK, I see balance, but I still don’t see any beauty.” Would there be any way to convince him?