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But Is It Art?: An Introduction to Art Theory

But Is It Art?: An Introduction to Art Theory [Kindle Edition]

Cynthia Freeland
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

But Is It Art? is not only a fine little book but an important big question. Cynthia Freeland's informed and informative essay addresses, in seven pointed chapters, this central poser about modern art today. A multitude of odd, disturbing, weird, pointless-looking pictures, sculptures and things make up the products that we see inside--and out of--our galleries, that make up the art in the art world, and it is difficult to know both how to judge them and from what perspective. Modern art seems to get ever more popular but also gives rise to ever bigger controversies: do any of us really know if something is or is not art?

"This is a book about what art is, what it means and why we value it ... [art] theory is more than a definition; it is a framework that supplies an orderly explanation of observed phenomena." Freeland starts with the shocking and looks at the role of blood in modern art and performance pieces. She contextualises it and then, through the chapter and the rest of the book, looks at different theories of art (ritual theory, theories of taste and beauty, imitation theory, theories that emphasise communication), the role of money, politics, new media and the thoughts of some important thinkers: Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan and arch postmodernist Jean Baudrillard. Freeland evaluates how successful philosophers and critics have been in dealing with the art they interrogate. But this is not a dry book, indeed one possible criticism to be made is that it is rather shallow in its judgements of a number of theories and rarely gets below the surface of much of the work it discusses. That would be too harsh, however. Freeland has not set out to have the last word--and indeed her gentle, politically correct egalitarianism would probably not perceive there to be such a thing. This is a useful, compact, bright introduction to the perplexing issues around modern art today and, like the works of Matthew Collings, one that empowers the reader and viewer into understanding that their confusion in the face of certain works is okay, that the naive questions they might ask are the right ones.--Mark Thwaite


In today's world many strange, even shocking things appear to qualify as art and Cynthia Freeland explains the value of innovation and controversy in the arts, weaving together philosophy and art theory with many fascinating examples discussing topical artists like Damien Hirst as well as historical examples like Goya and Velasquez. She also surveys cutting-edge websites along with the latest research on the brain's role in art perception.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 21583 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (22 Feb 2001)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #141,920 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What is art? 1 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent overview of ways of thinking about what art has been considered to be and how it is viewed now. It provides a sound framework for evaluating and challenging differing views of what art is and a foundation for developing this exploration.

Would have liked more illustration and the illustrations being placed appropriately.
Loved the idea that gardens were at one time considered a significant art form.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inner Fire be darned! 30 Oct 2008
Not sure about "inner fire" and all the other stuff the previous reviewer was warbling on about.
I wasn;t looking for anything high brow or deep, I wanted a well written, basic understanding of the subject and that is exactly what I got.
Recommended if you are not an aesthete from Greece.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and insightful 29 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A handy and thought provoking insight into art theory which is also in a good format for carrying on the bus/train!

Absorbing reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly scruffy but great value! 29 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although this book was a library book beforehand except for the stamps it was reasonably neat. I have only read the first few chapters but it seems really interesting. Thank you, as a student I wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting introduction into what art is. 22 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I don't claim to know anything about art, which is why an introduction to art theory appealed.

I've got a broader knowledge after reading this book, but am probably no clearer as to what makes something good art or even art at all, but the book explains that that is fundamentally true of everyone.

Even experts, it seems, have wildly contradictory views, even as individuals!

An interesting read, which I hope and believe will help me look at art in different, more informed ways.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars But is it Art? 17 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book raises many interesting points about how we view art, and how the concept of 'what is Art?' has changed over time.
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