What makes something a work of art?

Use the following questions and related media as a way to initiate dialogue about contemporary art and specific ideas related to where art is seen, how it is made, and who makes it. Related images and video segments should inspire a variety of responses and provoke new ways of thinking about possible answers.

What makes something a work of art? Is art defined by particular boundaries or characteristics? If so, what are they, and how have they changed over time?


Vija Celmins. "Untitled (Big Sea #1)," 1969. Graphite on acrylic ground on paper, 34 1/8 x 45 1/4 inches. Private collection. Courtesy McKee Gallery, New York.

"I try to make a piece that's strong and thorough and doesn't jump off the paper. It's neither ocean nor a piece of paper. It becomes a third thing."
—Vija Celmins

Watch: Bruce Nauman in "Identity"