Art, defined

A Reading Note

Defining art in terms of its economy:

It is the assumption of this book that a work of art is a gift, not a commodity. Or, to state the modern case with more precision, that works of art exist simultaneously in two “economies,” a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art.

Hyde, The Gift, page xvi

This definition neatly sidesteps any evaluation of the skill or success of a work of art, proposing instead that it is the artist’s intent that matters. A bad work of art is still art, if the artist gave of herself to create it—if the work is an exercise of her heart.

Related books

The Gift

Lewis Hyde

The original subtitle of this book defined it as “Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property,” which hints at the real message better than the revision: that real art, no matter the price, is always a gift from the artist to the audience.