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"Tribuna of the Uffizi, "Johann Zoffany (1772-78), showing many famous works of European art
The "Great Mosque of Kairouan (also called the Mosque of Uqba) in "Kairouan in "Tunisia[1]
Sculpture garden of the National Gallery, "Canberra with graveposts from "Vanuatu

A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an "aesthetic "physical item or "artistic creation. Apart from "work of art", which may be used of any work regarded as "art in its widest sense, including works from "literature and "music, these terms apply principally to tangible, portable forms of "visual art:

Used more broadly, the term is less commonly applied to:

This article is concerned with the terms and concept as used in and applied to the visual arts, although other fields such as "aural-"music and written word-"literature have similar issues and philosophies. The term "objet d'art is reserved to describe works of art that are not paintings, prints, drawings or large or medium-sized sculptures, or architecture (e.g. household goods, figurines, etc., some purely aesthetic, some also practical). The term oeuvre is used to describe the complete body of work completed by an artist throughout a career.[2]



Chinese "jade ornament with grapes vine (1115–1234 CE)
"Leadlight window from the 1920s
Gold and enamel purse clasp, Saxon

A work of art in the visual arts is a physical two- or three- dimensional object that is professionally determined or otherwise considered to fulfill a primarily independent "aesthetic function. A singular art object is often seen in the context of a larger "art movement or artistic "era, such as: a "genre, aesthetic "convention, "culture, or regional-national distinction.[3] It can also be seen as an item within an artist's "body of work" or oeuvre. The term is commonly used by: "museum and "cultural heritage "curators, the interested public, the "art patron-private "art collector community, and "art galleries.[4]

Physical objects that document immaterial or "conceptual art works, but do not conform to artistic conventions can be redefined and reclassified as art objects. Some "Dada and "Neo-Dada conceptual and "readymade works have received later inclusion. Also, some "architectural renderings and "models of unbuilt projects, such as by "Vitruvius, "Leonardo da Vinci, "Frank Lloyd Wright, and "Frank Gehry, are other examples.

The products of "environmental design, depending on intention and execution, can be "works of art" and include: "land art, "site-specific art, "architecture, "gardens, "landscape architecture, "installation art, "rock art, and "megalithic monuments.

Legal definitions of "work of art" are used in "copyright law; see "Visual arts § United States of America copyright definition of visual art.


"Marcel Duchamp critiqued the idea that the work of art should be a unique product of an artist's labour, representational of their technical skill or artistic caprice.["citation needed] Theorists have argued that objects and people do not have a constant meaning, but their meanings are fashioned by humans in the context of their culture, as they have the ability to make things mean or signify something.[5]

Artist "Michael Craig-Martin, creator of "An Oak Tree, said of his work – "It's not a symbol. I have changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree. I didn't change its appearance. The actual "oak tree is physically present, but in the form of a glass of water."[6]


The original "Fountain by "Marcel Duchamp, 1917, photographed by "Alfred Stieglitz at his "291 after the 1917 "Society of Independent Artists exhibit.

Some "art theorists and writers have long made a distinction between the "physical qualities of an art object and its identity-status as an artwork.[7] For example, a painting by "Rembrandt has a physical existence as an "oil painting on canvas" that is separate from its identity as a "masterpiece "work of art" or the artist's magnum opus.[8] Many works of art are initially denied "museum quality" or artistic merit, and later become accepted and valued in museum and private collections. Works by the "Impressionists and non-representational "abstract artists are examples. Some, such as the ""Readymades" of Marcel Duchamp including his infamous urinal "Fountain, are later reproduced as museum quality replicas.

There is an indefinite distinction, for current or historical aesthetic items: between ""fine art" objects made by ""artists"; and "folk art, "craft-work, or ""applied art" objects made by "first, second, or third-world" "designers, "artisans and "craftspeople. Contemporary and archeological "indigenous art, "industrial design items in limited or "mass production, and places created by "environmental designers and "cultural landscapes, are some examples. The term has been consistently available for debate, reconsideration, and redefinition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Stothoff Badeau and John Richard Hayes, The Genius of Arab civilization: source of Renaissance. Taylor & Francis. 1983. p. 104
  2. ^ Oeuvre Merriam Webster Dictionary, Accessed April 2011
  3. ^ Gell, Alfred (1998). Art and agency: an Anthropological Theory. Clarendon Press. p. 7. "ISBN "0-19-828014-9. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  4. ^ Macdonald, Sharon (2006). A Companion to Museum Studies. Blackwell companions in cultural studies. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 52. "ISBN "1-4051-0839-8. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  5. ^ Hall, S (ed.) 1997, Cultural Representations and Signifying Practice, Open University Press, London, 1997.
  6. ^ "There's No Need to be Afraid of the Present", The Independent, 25 Jun 2001
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 4, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Rembrandt Research Project - Home". rembrandtresearchproject.org. 

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