A work of art (or artwork or work) is a creation, such as an art object, design, architectural piece, musical work, literary composition, performance, film, conceptual art piece, or even computer program that is made and or valued primarily for an "artistic" rather than practical function.
Traditional media for visual works of art include: calligraphy, photography, carvings, gardens, ceramics, painting, prints, sculpture, drawings, [[photography or buildings. Since modernism, the field of fine art has expanded to include film, performance art, conceptual art, and video art.
What is perceived as a work of art differs between cultures and eras and by the meaning of the term '"art" itself. Up until the 1970s, for example, western art critics and the general western public tended not to define applied art or decorative art as works of art, or at least to distinguish between them and works, like paintings, with no practical use. Chinese Art did not make this distinction so strongly.
The related terms "artwork" and "art object", used especially in American English, came into use in the 20th century, especially to describe modern and post-modern art, in order to avoid an older syntagma "piece of art" as a concept which was strongly tied with traditional aesthetics.
To establish whether a work is a work of art, the concepts of attribution, artistic merit and literary merit may be invoked.
The French form of "art object", objet d'art, has been used for much longer in English and usually means a work of decorative or applied art.
Among practitioners of contemporary art, various new media objects such as the DVD, the web page, and other interactive media have been treated as art objects; such treatment frequently involves a formalist (or "medium-specific") analysis. The formal analysis of computerized media has yielded such art movements as internet art and algorithmic art. The purpose of "new media objects" is not to replace traditional media, but to challenge old media.
Art object An art object is a physical object that is considered to fulfil or have fulfilled an independent and primarily aesthetic function. The possession of art objects has, since the English Licensing Act of 1662, been increasingly divorced from the possession of copyright. An art object is often seen in the context of a larger artwork, oeuvre, genre, culture, or convention. Physical objects that document immaterial art works, but do not conform to artistic conventions have transubstantiated into art objects. The term is common within the museum industry.
Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, 1917, photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at his 291 gallery after the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit. Stieglitz used a backdrop of The Warriors by Marsden Hartley to photograph the urinal. The exhibition entry tag can be clearly seen.Plasmaphone performance at ICMC 2007 Marcel Duchamp critiqued the idea that the "objet d’art" should be a unique product of an artist's labor, representational of their technical skill and/or artistic caprice. It has been 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.Michael Craig Martin said of his work An Oak Tree, "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."
A distinction has long been made between the physical qualities of an art object and its status as an artwork. An artwork such a Dutch 17th century painting has a physical existence as a painting that is separate from its identity as a Rembrandtmasterpiece. Many works of art, such as Duchamp's famous Fountain, have been initially denied "museum quality", and later cloned as "museum quality replicas". Similarly, the 19th century boom in sculptural and architectural duplication and replication has created an extremely complex patinated art object, to match the Renaissance attitude to classical duplication, but using the techniques of casting, electrotyping, photography, printing, and forging. For centuries, fashion has changed in what is considered an acceptable art object, although there is a considerable degree of cross-cultural respect and awareness.
Art can be objectified after the death of the artist, in for example Degas's sculptures cast after his death, or Cezanne's unsuccessful sketches which were presented as art objects following his death.
There is a debate as to why "art objects" made by artists are valued higher than craft objects made by Craftsmen. In 1973 Lucy Lippard anthologised the de-materialization at work in conceptual art.