What distinguishes visual art from other forms of visual communication?

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 distinguishes visual art from other forms of visual communication, like advertising, design, or photojournalism?


Ellen Gallagher. "Free Nurses" from "DeLuxe," 2004-2005. Aquatint, photogravure, collage, varnish, and cut paper, 13 x 10 inches. Edition of 20. Photo by D. James Dee. Courtesy Two Palms Press, New York, © Ellen Gallagher.

"Eunice Rivers, the nurse, that's such a specific character. The nurse could refer to Julia the nurse and the sort of idealized professional woman of the '60s. They were these ads to serve your people and be professional and ambitious. Ahab [in Moby Dick] and Eunice Rivers exist for me as a sign for travel and hunger. Eunice Rivers was the nurse that ushered scores of black—mostly illiterate and poor—farmers through the Tuskegee experiment."
—Ellen Gallagher

Watch: Krzysztof Wodiczko: Designer Adam Whiton