You could define art as vision or as intuition, as Benedetto Croce does in his essay "What is Art?" By this definition, the works of someone with a beautiful vision would be beautiful, and art would be an external manifestation of an internal state. The importance of art is related to the nature of our human built environment, and whether we create it to be a comfort or a torment. To understand the place of art and beauty in contemporary culture, you need to turn to history.
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Art, like humor, can sometimes by deadened when dissected too thoroughly. Writers as accomplished and diverse as Leo Tolstoy in "What is Art" and Susan Sontag in "The New Art, A Critical Anthology" have pondered the meaning and function of art, yet it remains a nebulous term. Perhaps Picasso, in an interview with Marius de Zayas in 1923, best captured the elusive nature of art when he wrote that "art is a lie that makes us realize truth."
The great art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy, in his book, "The Transformation of Nature in Art," wrote that "museums are the places were we've put the things that we've forgotten how to use." While museums have allowed millions to see the great works of art from throughout history, they also pose the threat of separating art from everyday life. William Morris believed that this separation was one of the causes of modern...