Shelves: art-history-books , phd I think it goes without saying that this is one of the capital works in the field of the theory of art. However, what I found most valuable were the examples Danto provides in his unique, creative yet extremely logical and well-founded manner. By concentrating on several controversial artworks and giving a philosophical background, he challenges the definition of art but also provides acceptable alternatives. And he manages to do all of this in an entertaining way! Nov 25, Drenda rated it really liked it Danto is asking an interesting question in Transfiguration of the Commonplace: what is it that we are responding to when we have an aesthetic experience?

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Is it an artwork? Kant would have us answer this question by deciding whether we can engage in the harmonious free play of the cognitive faculties as we look at it. Let us say that we do. In that case, Kant would say it must be art and it must be beautiful. But let us consider all the other urinals built, which all look identical to Fountain.

Since we are basing our determination of this object as art based on our Kantian visual analysis of it, it follows that all of these urinals would have to be considered artworks as well. And yet, that sounds ridiculous, because we would never say that the public urinal at the rest stop is art.

To illustrate this, Danto gives us an example of several objects which all look identical, and yet are not all works of art. The first is a painting of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, and it is a simply a red square on canvas. All of these objects are materially identical. Yet they all have profoundly different expressive contents, and not all of them are even artworks. This example shows how expressive or aesthetic properties alone cannot define something as an artwork.

But these theories cannot account for the fact that we do not in fact view both objects as artwork but instead only one of them, and why that is. Danto believes that the answer to this question is in part historical. Danto also uses an interesting example from language to highlight the importance of context in defining something as art. This explains why Warhol can take artistic credit for the Brillo Boxes while whoever originally designed brillo containers cannot.

He uses these boxes to question our established notions of where you find art. The idea of aboutness being helpful in identification of artworks does not by itself explain why some things that also have aboutness or semantic meaning, i. What makes some representations artworks and others not is whether they are interpreted as artworks. Danto explains this by likening the identification of an object as an artwork to a transformation of the object into art via interpretation.

Similarly, interpretation has the power to change a mere real thing into an artwork in our eyes. The moment when a representation is given an interpretation is like the moment of linguistic representation being used to interpret objects.

This demonstrates the gap between both art and reality and language and reality. Continuing his theory of art as against the traditional use of aesthetic properties, Danto begins his argument as to why aesthetic properties cannot be used to define a representation as art by using the art theory of George Dickie. And even if it cannot be aesthetically appreciated, it should still be able to be a work of art.

While an artwork may have aesthetic qualities, one would have to know that the object is an artwork first, because real things versus artworks require different responses. Yet while his theory can explain and perhaps comfort those who may be frustrated by how such simplistic works can be worth millions of dollars and be considered artistic achievements, it leaves one wondering whether such works actually deserve to be artworks.

Against Dickie, Danto had defended works which may repulse us as still being worthy to be considered artworks. Yet is it fair to consider works as art those which are only about shocking us, and have no actual meaning or message behind them?

Works Cited Danto, Arthur C. Share this:.


The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art

Non-conventional definitions take a concept like the aesthetic as an intrinsic characteristic in order to account for the phenomena of art. In terms of classificatory disputes about art , Danto takes a conventional approach. His "institutional definition of art" considers whatever art schools, museums, and artists get away with, regardless of formal definitions. Danto has written on this subject in several of his recent works and a detailed treatment is to be found in Transfiguration of the Commonplace. Danto, Carroll Clause iv is what makes the definition institutionalist. The view has been criticized for entailing that art criticism written in a highly rhetorical style is art, lacking but requiring an independent account of what makes a context art historical, and for not applying to music. But he thinks that a certain history of western art has come to an end, in about the way that Hegel suggested it would.


Arthur Danto



The Transfiguration of the Commonplace


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