Yes…But Is It Art?

by | Mar 19, 2015

“I don’t know what art is,” said Marin Creed, a world-renowned artist and Turner Prize winner. I have to admit that many times I feel the same. Looking at art makes me wonder if what I see and feel is magic, manipulation, or just something insignificantly beautiful (or ugly for that matter).  The question of “what art is” becomes more critical and cynical in the context of the art market, where artworks are being sold for millions.

I believe that the critical view and judgment of art should be a constant challenge to us as viewers and to the art world’s professionals as trendsetters. But when one comes to criticize art he/she shouldn’t forget that many times art can only be judged in the course of history.  Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 piece “Fountain” – a porcelain urinal, signed “R.Mutt” – is a good example of an artwork that created a debate around the question, “Is it art?” Today of course we all understand the importance of Duchamp’s work.

Listening to critiques of the art world has its advantages; many times it can be eye-opening. One example of someone who has challenged the art world is Morley Safer from the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”


In 1993, Safer produced the controversial segment “Yes . . . But Is It Art?” in which he took a critical look at the contemporary art world and took on the artists, dealers, and critics of the ’90s with gusto. (For a rebuttal, read Carol Vogel’s 1993 New York Times article, Art World Is Not Amused by Critique.)

Safer did the same in 2012. The 20-year difference between the first segment and the second can be a good reflection tool for us – have the art world and its players, prices, motives and arenas changed? Watch it here, decide for yourself and share your opinion.

Watch September 1993 Version and April 2012.


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