The views of Staniszewski are revolutionary when it comes to her three primary questions: What is art, what is not art, and how things come to have meaning and value. Her perceptions of art are philosophical-sociological and differ greatly from traditional art theories, usually suggesting that art has intrinsic value, or that the artist is the only one who know the essence of the art.She defines art as a modernist phenomenon. The beginning of art history, for Staniszewski’s philosophy is only about 200 years ago. She marks this as the moment in which art institutions came into existence. These institutions gave value to art, or more accurately made art, Art, by deeming it as such. By creating an art culture, we have defined art by making art what we expect it to be: “When an artist creates a work of Art, it has no intrinsic use or value; but when the artwork circulates within the systems of art (galleries, art histories, art publications, museums, and so on) it acquires a depth of meaning, a breadth of importance, and an increase in value that is perhaps greater proportionately in the modern world than anything else.” (Staniszewski 28).
The example of the picture of the toilet, or Fountain, the artist Marcel Duchamp makes a statement that causes the art community to examine where art gets its value and meaning. This statement is one of a framed toilet, euphemistically titled Fountain. What makes the toilet in the picture valuable and critical and makes the toilet into a “fountain” is the frame around the picture and that it is hanging in a gallery and generating art history, commentary, and reactions. The point of Duchamp’s Fountain is that he intended this picture to be Art. Duchamp intended the art community to react. His intention mingled with the artistic community’s reaction is what makes Fountain art. The same applies to L.H.O.O.Q., where Marcel depicts a well-known painting, the Mona Lisa with an irreverent mustache drawn across her face. Duchamp nearly forces the art community to compare his painting to Mona Lisa thereby proving the power of the artistic community to impart value and meaning.
The proportions are crude and incorrect on Duchamp’s “reproduction”, but this does not matter. Whereas, the original Mona Lisa is hailed by art critics for its artistic qualities, these are not qualities that are intrinsic to Mona Lisa, but rather from the art community which embraced Mona Lisa as art, long after its’ creation. The difference is that Duchamp made a commentary and intended that his painitng be scrutinized and compared to the non-art that it “mars”. In the same manner, Staniszewski does not think that Michelangelo’s art was Art. Its function was political and religious; Michelangelo did not even have authority or freedom to paint as he wanted, he was told what he could and could not paint. Additionally, the art did not function for purely aesthetic purposes, and there was not an official art culture that criticized and circulated his work or ideas. Unlike Michelangelo, artists like Duchamp, may not have Michelangelo’s craftsmanship, but are lucky to have a community to put forth their art as Art.
There are valid points to Staniszewski’s theory, for certainly art has been analyzed in modern times as it has not been prior. Something in me resists accepting that there is no intrinsic value to art. I am uncomfortable with the notion of art’s value existing in the community that receives it rather than an intimate relationship between artist, artwork, and viewer.

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Staniszewski’s Interpretation of Art: Institutions Give Art Meaning

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