About art and works of art

It has only occurred to me comparatively recently that what I have been trying to do for most of my life has been to clearly detach the concept of art from the concept of the work of art, against the overwhelming might of an artworld that is determined to conflate them.

Very briefly and very roughly: the important word ‘art’ invokes the discovery of actions that we  had not previously known ourselves to be capable of performing. It is not the same word as the last word (with the same spelling) occurring in the phrase ‘work of art.’ Works of art may be vastly ingenious and prodigiously skilful without expanding the mind or enlarging the competence either of the artist or of any spectator.

Artists are people who make works of art. They cannot be people who make art because art cannot be made. Art can only be found, either by an artist in the course of making a work of art or by an open-minded contemplator of anything at all, whether ot not it qualifies, quite incidentally, as a work of art.

Forced to choose a motto I would rely with some confidence on Machiavelli (in The Prince , 1513, Ch.6.)

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”