On the Incompatibility of Science and Art – A Quantitative Survey to Determine the Relevance of an Academic Definition of Art for Artists

Keywords: Art and Science, Definition of Art, Concept of Art, Art Theory, Artist as Researcher, Visual Artist, Quantitative Research, Artist Survey


Since Greek Antiquity, art historians, philosophers and sociologists alike have been engaged in an academic discourse to find a definition for art. It seems, however, to lie in the very nature of art to continuously redefine itself. The endeavor of developing a theoretical con­struct for the visual arts appears therefor to succeed only in part; art seems always a step ahead of science. A scientific perspective on the concept of art still dominates literature today. This article highlights the artist’s perspective and shows what role a scientific approach to the con­cept of art plays in artistic practice while also identifying alternative possibilities to define art. A quantitative survey among 80 visual artists revealed that they consider a scientific definition of art as rather irrelevant, a majority even deeming it unnecessary. Instead, they see artists as key figures on the art market, positioning themselves before art historians or curators when it comes to determining what art is. When it comes to the question of who ultimately defines the concept of art, it becomes clear that a certain incompatibility between art theorists and visual artists exi­sts. Based on the insights gained, this study concludes with implications for further developing theories on the concept of art, proposing to better integrate artists in their roles as researchers in order to achieve more dynamic and adaptable approaches.


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