Must art have meaning to be good?

Photo by Blake Israel

Whether it be societally or fiscally, the value of a piece of art has always been directly connected to its meaning, which is not a solidly defined thing.

Rather, the fact that art means vastly different things to different people complicates an already blurry question of whether all art has meaning, and if it doesn’t, can it still be considered good?

When approaching this question, it’s often easy to point to abstract art as an example of art that is seemingly simple and thus lacks meeting.

Even if you think that abstract art is objectively terrible, the fact that you dislike it means that it has invoked strong feelings in you, and isn’t that what art should do?

It may be productive to look at art through the perspective of it being an extension of the artist, and consequently deriving meaning from the process of its creation and as a reflection of the artists’ perspectives on the world.

However, that then begs the question of whether mass-produced art and copies of the art then lack value since they lack the artistic process of creation.

There are millions of posters of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” but each one has a different meaning to its owner.

Whether you proudly display it in your living room or have it tucked away in a little corner of your closet, your manipulation of the art inherently has meaning.

Art as decoration is ornamental, and regardless of how many copies of the ornament are created, the way it is placed and the way you choose to allow it into your life provides it meaning.

When considering mass production, we also discussed the idea of whether mass production itself dilutes meaning, but that also highlights its own questions of whether the artist is the sole proprietor of a piece of work’s meaning?

This question brings up ideas of the death of the author or the concept that an author’s intentions or life story should hold no special weight in the analysis of a piece of work.

An artist can say a piece of work has a certain meaning, but that does not necessarily define the piece.

Instead, it is an individual’s isolated perspective of the art that singularly defines a piece of art’s meaning to a person.

Furthermore, without considering the concept of the death of the author, we are left in a grey space of whether the fact that a piece of art that was published with the purpose of being solely fiscally viable robs it of any other meeting.

We believe that, rather, even art created with the purpose of commodification may still have meaning if it is special to you and you hold a deep relationship with it.

At the end of the day, we create the meaning of art, so if you decide that art doesn’t have meaning, then it doesn’t.

However, we implore you to look further than that and push you to ask the question of what a lack of meaning may say about your relationship with the piece and how you may view art.