What is ART? (“Prostitution,” says Baudelaire)

There’s nothing more depressing than looking up “art” in the dictionary. Not only are the definitions completely ass-faced and anthropocentric – skill, study, activity, products – but there are bound to be at least 3 or 4 horrid little variations:

  1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power;
  2. the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance;
  3. subjects of study primarily concerned with the processes and products of human creativity and social life, such as languages, literature, and history (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects);
  4. a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.

But what is art? Is it the thing? Is it less the thing, and more the process? Is it even definable? Can we cop out of nailing down a real definition by maintaining it’s entirely subjective? Is “skill” truly a necessary aspect of its creation?


I haven’t any definition myself. I’m pretty terrified of any sort of grand-scale definition, and finalities on the whole. You can never ask me about my favorite books or movies or TV shows or artists or foods or animals, because I will feel deeply unsettled about leaving one or ten out of my answer, as well as not ranking them correctly. Online quizzes, while an incredibly enjoyable fuck-you to time and productivity, can be equally as disconcerting – how can you ask me to make such an important decision when it will ultimately determine my fate as a Zelda character? (A very important quiz).

So as I cannot answer this lofty question myself, I’ve selected a few of my favorite quotes about and defining art by people who are way, way cooler to hear from. Accompanying these are shots of the FOXIEDOX Canary Dress in black – because if anything is art, it’s gotta be the stuff that’s so good it trumps nakedness.


“Art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.”
– Leonardo da Vinci

“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”
– Pablo Picasso

“We have our Arts so we won’t die of Truth.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
– Thomas Merton


“Art has to move you and design does not – unless it’s a good design for a bus.”
– David Hockney

“To evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced, and…then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling—this is the activity of art.”
– Leo Tolstoy

“Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband, and an ill provider.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Art begins with resistance — at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.”
– André Gide


“Art is not a thing — it is a way.”
– Elbert Hubbard

“Art is what you can get away with.”
– Andy Warhol

“Art is childish and childlike.”
– Damien Hirst

– Baudelaire


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