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  • When you hear the word art,

  • what comes to mind?

  • A painting, like the Mona Lisa,

  • or a famous sculpture or a building?

  • What about a vase or a quilt or a violin?

  • Are those things art, too, or are they craft?

  • And what's the difference anyway?

  • It turns out that the answer is not so simple.

  • A spoon or a saddle may be finely wrought,

  • while a monument may be, well, uninspired.

  • Just as not every musical instrument is utilitarian,

  • not every painting or statue is made for its own sake.

  • But if it's so tricky to separate art from craft,

  • then why do we distinguish objects in this way?

  • You could say it's the result

  • of a dramatic historical turn of events.

  • It might seem obvious to us today

  • to view people, such as da Vinci or Michelangelo,

  • as legendary artists,

  • and, of course, they possessed extraordinary talents,

  • but they also happened to live in the right place

  • at the right time,

  • because shortly before their lifetimes

  • the concept of artists hardly existed.

  • If you had chanced to step into a medieval European workshop,

  • you would have witnessed a similar scene,

  • no matter whether the place belonged to

  • a stonemason, a goldsmith, a hatmaker,

  • or a fresco painter.

  • The master, following a strict set of guild statutes,

  • insured that apprentices and journeymen

  • worked their way up the ranks

  • over many years of practice

  • and well-defined stages of accomplishment,

  • passing established traditions to the next generation.

  • Patrons regarded these makers

  • collectively rather than individually,

  • and their works from Murano glass goblets,

  • to Flemish lace,

  • were valued as symbols of social status,

  • not only for their beauty,

  • but their adherence to a particular tradition.

  • And the customer who commissioned and paid for the work,

  • whether it was a fine chair,

  • a stone sculpture, a gold necklace,

  • or an entire building,

  • was more likely to get credit

  • than those who designed or constructed it.

  • It wasn't until around 1400

  • that people began to draw a line

  • between art and craft.

  • In Florence, Italy,

  • a new cultural ideal that would later be called

  • Renaissance Humanism

  • was beginning to take form.

  • Florentine intellectuals began to spread the idea

  • of reformulating classical Greek and Roman works,

  • while placing greater value on individual creativity

  • than collective production.

  • A few brave painters,

  • who for many centuries,

  • had been paid by the square foot,

  • successfully petitioned their patrons

  • to pay them on the basis of merit instead.

  • Within a single generation,

  • people's attitudes about objects and their makers

  • would shift dramatically,

  • such that in 1550,

  • Giorgio Vasari,

  • not incidentally a friend of Michelangelo,

  • published an influential book called,

  • "Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects,"

  • elevating these types of creators

  • to rock star status by sharing juicy biographical details.

  • In the mind of the public,

  • painting, sculpture and architecture

  • were now considered art,

  • and their makers' creative masterminds: artists.

  • Meanwhile, those who maintained

  • guild traditions and faithfully produced

  • candlesticks, ceramic vessels,

  • gold jewelery or wrought iron gates,

  • would be known communally as artisans,

  • and their works considered minor or decorative arts,

  • connoting an inferior status

  • and solidifying the distinction

  • between art and craft that still persists

  • in the Western world.

  • So, if we consider a painting

  • by Rembrandt or Picasso art,

  • then where does that leave an African mask?

  • A Chinese porclein vase?

  • A Navajo rug?

  • It turns out that in the history of art,

  • the value placed on innovation

  • is the exception rather than the rule.

  • In many cultures of the world,

  • the distinction between art and craft

  • has never existed.

  • In fact, some works that might be considered craft,

  • a Peruvian rug,

  • a Ming Dynasty vase,

  • a totem pole,

  • are considered the cultures' preeminent visual forms.

  • When art historians of the 19th Century

  • saw that the art of some non-Western cultures

  • did not change for thousands of years,

  • they classified the works as primitive,

  • suggesting that their makers were incapable of innovating

  • and therefore were not really artists.

  • What they didn't realize was that

  • these makers were not seeking to innovate at all.

  • The value of their works lay precisely

  • in preserving visual traditions,

  • rather than in changing them.

  • In the last few decades, works such as

  • quilts, ceramics and wood carvings

  • have become more prominently included

  • in art history textbooks

  • and displayed in museums

  • alongside paintings and sculpture.

  • So maybe it's time to dispense with vague terms

  • like art and craft

  • in favor of a word like visual arts

  • that encompasses a wider array of aesthetic production.

  • After all, if our appreciation of objects

  • and their makers is so conditioned

  • by our culture and history,

  • then art and its definition

  • are truly in the eye of the beholder.

When you hear the word art,

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B1 TED-Ed art craft sculpture vase painting

【TED-Ed】Is there a difference between art and craft? - Laura Morelli

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    chancechance888 posted on 2014/03/16
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