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Art by another name.

When Juliet asks `What's in a name?', and says `That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet', it is difficult to disagree with her. Roses are natural kinds, and there are natural facts that give roses their properties quite independently of the conventional sound or sign that we use to refer to them. From this unexceptionable premise, however, Juliet draws a much more questionable conclusion:

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;

And for that name, which is no part of thee,

Take all myself

(Romeo and Juliet, II.ii)

And this is precisely what Romeo does. He ignores his family name, takes all of Juliet, including her life, and he does so because he cannot fathom the profound influence that his name must have over his life and hers.

It is not entirely clear which name Romeo is to `doff'--and therein lies some of the tragic irony of Juliet's lovelorn inference. What we soon learn is that Romeo's first name is much more easily discarded than the name of Montagu. For the person that we know as Romeo has been raised to a particular role in a particular family; there are expectations that he must live up to; there are aspirations that he is meant to share; there is a history that informs his actions and his life. He is, after all, a Montagu. And this shapes the person that he is and the life that he lives, and it does so almost as powerfully as the poison that later kills him.

That `dear perfection' that is Romeo owes a lot--although not everything--to his being a Montagu. So if an unwary audience does not at first discern the irony of Juliet's speech, the resolution of the tragedy soon marks it. What we learn is that there is a lot in a name--or at least in some names--and even those of us who are caught in the obsessive passion of a first love had better take note of this.

The word `art', I want to argue, is similarly socially imbued, and it is this, I will show, that makes the identification of art across cultures a delicate and complex task that is much more prone to error than art critics and anthropologists sometimes suppose. But before I do this, it is important to turn again to Romeo. For in some respects Juliet is right about the man she loves. It matters not what we call him: if he is a man, then, like all men, he will breathe, eat, feel pain, have ambitions, need love, approval, and so on. Whatever else is in the names of `Romeo' and `Montagu', there are certain human commonalities that the use of these names invariably conjure up and sometimes refer to. Romeo, the person, is not wholly the product of his social existence. That part of Romeo that is not a social construct, and that is shared with all other human beings, is captured in a range of what I shall call `thin' or `thinner' descriptions that refer, as it were, to Romeo's basic humanity, his biological nature. The social overlays and understandings that shape the man and make him interesting--that help give him his character, his vices, and his virtues--are captured in a range of thicker descriptions; `thicker', in this case, because they are permeated with social understandings of one sort or another.

It is no part of this distinction to suggest that we can divest human beings of all their social significance; rather, the distinction is meant to alert us to the fact that some descriptions carry much more social or cultural baggage than others. Thinner descriptions, then, refer to natural kinds, natural objects, and natural facts more or less divested of the social significance that can be, or has been, attached to them. Thicker descriptions, by contrast, refer to these same objects or facts in a way that conveys much more of their social significance. So, for instance, a description of someone as a human being is a thinner description than the description of someone as a wife. The latter description is thicker simply because it conveys something of the social significance of a particular human being--the social office occupied or the social role played by her. Furthermore, where thicker descriptions are concerned, it may be the case that they apply and are true in one society but not in another. A society that lacks the institution of marriage between women and men is not a society in which there can be wives (at least in any current sense of this word), although it remains a society in which there are human beings.


Picasso had no doubt at all that some African carvings, especially those that inspired Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), were works of art. On his view, even if the African tribes concerned did not call these carvings art, they were nonetheless art--although, of course, art by another name.

It is, I think, just a fact that those of us who are embedded in the Western artistic tradition find it natural to think of certain tribal artefacts in this way. It is a tendency, David Hume might have said, of the mind to `spread itself upon external objects'.(1) So sure are we that there is, in a perfectly ordinary sense of the word `art', such a thing as tribal art, that some of us proceed apace to distinguish authentic tribal art from mere tourist trash, which we treat not just as inferior but as inauthentic.

The question for both the anthropologist and the philosopher of art is to know whether it is possible to make these claims without imposing our own historically shaped social understandings on another culture.(2) According to M. H. Abrams, for instance, there were no `works of art' in our sense until about the seventeenth century, so that what we now see and understand as art was not so understood by Europeans much before that time.(3) Even if Abrams is wrong about this, there is no a priori reason to suppose that our concept of art has a settled application across times and cultures--so that there is at least a prima facie problem for Western art critics when they talk about Baule, Yoruba, or Venda art. It is the problem of knowing that they have understood enough of the relevant culture to describe tribal artefacts, correctly and unequivocally, as `works of art'--that is, as `works of art' in the only sense of this expression that we understand: the very same sense in which a medieval icon, Michelangelo's David, or Duchamp's Fountain is a work of art. And, if they cannot know this, there is the difficulty of explaining what could possibly justify their description of these objects as works of art.

This is only one part of the problem. We may, in deciding the authenticity of a Xhosa carving, wish to know not so much whether the carving is authentically `art' in our sense of this word, but whether it is authentically Xhosa rather than Baule, Venda, or Zulu; or authentically Xhosa rather than a curio, or tourist art. The debate that surrounds these issues is sometimes heated, occasionally pious, but for all that very important. It takes some of its impetus from Francis Sparshott's observation that there are few tribal cultures today that are not extensively affected, both in what they do and in what they make, by external influences.' For a range of related reasons, Larry Shiner sees little use for the discourse of authenticity when it comes to tribal works of art. On his view, attempts to judge authenticity, and the dismissive tone of the judgements based on them, is `intellectually confused and politically dubious'.(5)


Talk about authenticity, however, is indispensable if we are to understand specific works of art as conveying the achievements of particular artists and cultures, and as affording insight into the values, beliefs, practices, and skills of another culture, another time. This much has been cogently argued by Denis Dutton.(6) On his view, unless there is some room for notions of authenticity, we cannot approach works of art in the way that we actually do, and plainly need to do, if art is to have the cultural significance and the value that we currently attach to it. This, however, is not to deny that one can appreciate the artefacts of other cultures and other times in terms that are inappropriate to them. It is only to suggest that such a response will not tell us very much about the cultures from which the artefacts hail. Nor will it inform us about the nature of the artefacts, or about the skills of the individuals who are responsible for them.

All of this seems obvious enough. Problems begin to arise, though, if one thinks that the task of determining whether or not an artefact is genuinely or authentically a work of art is crucially different from the task of determining whether it is genuinely Zulu art or Baule art. Most of us seem to think that the two tasks are entirely different; that, like Picasso, we can determine, often at a glance, whether or not a carving is art, but that it is an altogether more laboured process, requiring detailed anthropological study, to determine whether it is Zulu rather than Venda art. This common-sense view is one that takes root, so I believe, in the aesthetic movement of the declining years of the nineteenth century. According to it, the formal properties of art--its textures, colours, surfaces, shapes, and sounds--together delight the senses, trigger the imagination and understanding in ways that leave no doubt that it is art. Although it is no longer fashionable to appeal to the formal significance of a work, the idea that we can tell, just by looking, that a Zulu artefact is also art, has its origins with Roger Fry and Clive Bell and their allegiance to a mixed diet of British Empiricism and Kantian aesthetics.

I shall argue that this claim and the distinction that it encourages is seriously misleading; that while it is tempting to think of anthropologists as first identifying tribal artefacts as works of art by means of a range of very thin descriptions, and then as determining their tribal pedigree by means of more socially informed, thicker descriptions, this cannot be what actually happens. For, as I shall argue, the separate tasks that this claim presupposes are of necessity much more closely integrated than it suggests. Even if there is a universally shared human nature such that certain sounds, shapes, colours, and textures are invariably delightful, I shall argue that such universals--as well as the delight and pleasure they afford--are never sufficient for classifying something as art.


It is true, of course, that all human beings in all human societies make things; that they exercise and apply certain skills in order to produce artefacts that serve particular ends. And it is a relatively straightforward matter to determine whether a physical object located in a particular African tribe is an artefact. Nonetheless, to identify something as a tribal artefact is never of itself sufficient for identifying it as a work of art.

It is also true that in many societies the skills involved in making things are sometimes organized and regulated in ways that protect them from debasement and ensure their proper transmission. But even in our own society it is clear that such institutional arrangements do not license talk about works of art. Nonetheless, as Sparshott has remarked, in the Classical tradition from which we descend, such productive skills are sometimes referred to as arts. We speak of the art of agriculture, medicine, sheep shearing, and so on. According to him, it is because people wish to do better that they attend to these skills and try to improve, even perfect them. In many societies, this inclines people to attend to these skills not just as a means to certain practical ends but also as ends in themselves. It is here, Sparshott tells us, that the Classical Theory of the arts begins.(7)

But even if we grant, very contentiously, that all cultures attend to certain skills as ends in themselves, it is notoriously the case, as we can see from our own culture, that not all of the skills that we treat in this way come to be regarded as skills that demarcate the fine arts--even when their perfection is regarded as beautiful. Ploughing is an art, and a well-ploughed field in a ploughing competition does look beautiful--at least to the trained rural eye. But we do not regard such a field as a work of (fine or popular) art, and it would be wrong for someone looking at our society to think of it in this way. When we ask why not, the answer has to be given in terms not of the essential nature of art but of certain historical or social contingencies; in terms, that is, of the value that these skills happen to have for those people at that time; in terms, too, of the beliefs and theories that happen to prevail during a period of a specific culture. Here Sparshott and I are entirely in agreement: `the word "art" gestures vaguely', he says, towards `an immense, indeterminate and disparate body of practice and theory with a dense and much-studied history'.(8)

It is in terms of this history, theory, and practice that we can explain why, in our culture, the skills of pictorial representation and narration have come to be treated as fine arts, but not the skills of agriculture, sorcery, or medicine. It is in terms, that is, of a range of thicker descriptions that do not just appeal to the appearance or form of certain artefacts, that we classify them as works of art. So, for instance, we find that the skills of the potter, like the skills of a person who produces religious artefacts, are at present marginal to the fine arts. But they were not always so, and whether or not they remain marginal will depend on whether the beliefs and values bred of our social existence change. In other words, whether or not clay pots, vases, rosaries, and crucifixes are regarded as works of art depends at least in part on how our society is configured--and, of course, on the beliefs and values that we acquire in consequence of this configuration.

This is why the discernment of art--its identification across cultures--is not the straightforward, critically and anthropologically undemanding matter that common sense deems it to be. Put differently, given the nature of art, there is, and can be, no range of ideally thin descriptions (descriptions that appeal merely to the formal features of a work and to the neurophysiological structure of our brains) that can serve to isolate and identify certain artefacts as art. Works of art are cultural rather than natural kinds, so that there is, and can be, no type-distinction between the task involved in identifying a work as art, and identifying it as belonging to a particular culture. The same sorts of considerations are taken into account in determining both. Certainly we need to decide whether an object is a work of art in order to engage critically with it, but it is wrong to think that the task of doing this precedes, or is presupposed by, the task of determining whether a work is authentically Xhosa or Yoruba.

All of this, of course, is largely uninformative; it does not tell anthropologists what precisely to look for in determining whether a tribal artefact is art in our sense of this word--that is, in the only sense of the word that we understand. Certainly Yoruba people may attach value to the carvings they produce for a particular ritual, and it is manifestly true that they will be inclined to treat the carvings as privileged cultural objects. But this does not make the carvings works of art in our sense of the word any more than a hundred dollar bill, a vintage car, or a postage stamp, although privileged cultural objects in our society, are at present works of art.

The artefacts produced in a simpler society, a tribal society, may of course resemble some of those that we think of as art in this society The thinner descriptions that we offer of a carving, of its formal properties, its surface features, may be very like those that we offer of certain Picasso or Rodin sculptures. And while it is true that we do sometimes regard an artefact as a work of art by virtue of its resemblances to other acknowledged artworks, such a procedure is not without problems. For, as we know from Arthur Danto, two objects may be very alike, almost indiscernible, even though the one is a work of art, the other not.(9) For this reason alone, we are forced to follow something like Danto's and Sparshott's prescription, and look to the history and theory that pervades the tribal culture. But this says too little, for whatever history and theory we discover there is often much too remote from that which characterizes our own artworld for us to assert, with confidence, that we have a work of Yoruba, Xhosa, or Baulean art.

More needs to be known. On a view that I have defended elsewhere, what we need to know is why we have a history and a theory of art; only then, I suspect, can we hope to discover the conditions in other cultures that can plausibly license talk about art.(10) Art, I have argued, has a history and a theory because of the role that it plays in human lives. Monroe Beardsley once maintained that `in creating works of art we humanize the earth as we can in no other way, we warm it for ourselves, make it a place where we belong'.(11) The trouble, though, is that Beardsley does not tell us what this `way' is; still worse, he fails to observe that the art that makes one person feel supported by the world, may make another feel alien. Because of this, art may please or displease, endear or repel. And this, in part, is why we theorize about art and why we have an interest in recording its history. We expect that art should be friendly, that it should make us feel at home within the world in that special way that Beardsley, at least in the article under discussion, fails to specify. And it is when art fails to do this for us that we are prompted to ask theoretical questions about the nature of art, or about what art should be. Still more, what was once regarded and revered as art tells us much about the artistic values and beliefs of that period, some of which (we argue) are appropriate and correct, others inappropriate and mistaken. And so begins both the history and the theory of art.

If the capacity of an artefact to enrich particular lives is not merely incidental to it but derives from its form and content, and if the artefact can be seen to instantiate the values that people live by, so that it somehow legitimates their existence and enhances their sense of who and what they are, and if, furthermore, the artefact is valued for this sort of complex reason, we would, given the present moral ethos in which we live, be inclined to endorse the claim (should it be made) that it is a work of art.(12) We would do so, I expect, out of respect or moral consideration for other human beings because at some level we recognize that a failure to do so is a failure to attend seriously to their values, aspirations, and projects.

But even so, the capacity of artefacts to enrich certain lives is not enough to identify them as works of art. Our houses, motor cars, and weapons, our sporting medals, team blazers, dresses, and hairdos may also serve life-enriching functions, may also be admired for the aesthetic properties at their core and the intrinsic delight that they afford, but are not always works of art--even when this status is claimed for them. Everything would seem to depend on the way in which they enrich our lives--and in these two words lie the entire history of Western aesthetics. What we find is that there is no one way that an artefact must be in order to be a work of art; there are shades, degrees, nuances, and subtleties bred of social life, all of which defy straightforward empirical investigation and so cannot be captured in precise formulations or rigorous definitions; still less by appeal to artistic laws or aesthetic universals.(13) Rather, the decision to treat an artefact as a work of art is made in terms of criteria that have much to do with the historically shaped life of a society; criteria that are of significance only because of their social location--the beliefs, preferences, values, and social arrangements that prevail within a society at a given time, and which make these features (rather than those) a mark of arthood. But these are not universal art-markers; they are essentially contestable and cannot be non-defeasibly stated as the guarantors of arthood. Indeed, it is only their essential contestability that makes radical artistic change possible.

Since such artefacts are deeply embedded in social circumstance, their identity as works of art cannot be ascertained without first understanding these circumstances. This, in the end, is why it is wrong to suppose that we straightforwardly discern from its formal features that a carving is a work of art, and only then discover that it is a Yoruba carving. On the contrary, as I have already intimated, we cannot decide whether an artefact is a work of art until we know an awful lot about the society that it came from, the way such artefacts are regarded and treated, the values that they embody and express, and the lives that they enrich. But to know this is also to know how such societies function, how such artefacts are related to and embody the values of these societies and the individuals who are part of them. In other words, we have first to know that an artefact is expressive of Yoruba values and beliefs before we can hope to identify it as a Yoruba work of art. And we can identify it as a work of art in Yoruba culture only if the social arrangements that surround it are sufficiently similar to the social arrangements that allow us to regard certain artefacts as art in our own culture.

The difficulty of discerning this should not be underestimated. Indeed, it may be a whole lot easier to identify a carving as Yoruba than it is to identify it as a work of art in our sense of this phrase. Among the Yoruba, what are called ibeji, or twins, are special children whose birth is thought to bless their parents with good luck. Understandably enough, the death of a twin is seen as a particular misfortune, the worst effects of which are dealt with through an extended ritual. The mother commissions a carving of a manikin--or a pair of carvings when both twins have died--and the soul of the departed twin is ritually transferred to it. The carving is usually dressed in clothes and adorned with jewellery, and is kept near the mother's bed, sometimes carried around by her as she would a human child, so that far from being appreciated for its formal qualities and its beauty, it is offered food and prayers every week--with more elaborate rituals being performed on the occasion of birthdays and annual festivals.(14)

Although the carving conforms to fairly strict rules of composition--the head, for instance, is usually one third the size of the body, the surfaces are meant to be very smooth and luminous--these are not what members of our artworld would normally regard as rules of artistic composition. The head is required to be this size because it is associated with a person's spiritual `inner head', which is thought to determine a person's destiny. The smoothness is meant to convey spiritual luminosity--the `fact', that is, that the figure is inhabited by the soul of the departed. So although there are thin descriptions that capture features that might be deemed artistic in our culture, such descriptions mislead us if we infer from them that the objects in question are works of art. The reason, of course, is that these objects occupy a social space in Yoruba society that is remote from the social space occupied by works of art in our society. They are appreciated not for their originality, nor for their beauty, nor yet for their proportions; they are appreciated primarily as quasi-religious artefacts that allow the beneficial influence of the deceased twin to persist in the parents' lives. This becomes clearer when we realize that in the twentieth century carvings are not always used as ibeji; that cheap green and pink mass-produced plastic dolls of a sort that most assuredly would not be considered art in our culture can do the job equally well.(15)

Consider as well the fact that ever since the seventeenth century, art in the Western world has come progressively to be aligned with individual prowess: with the originality, the power, the genius, the virtuosity of the artist. In the artworld as currently configured, we look to artefacts in order to discover traces of an individual's brilliance within it. But, so far as I have been able to discover, this notion is foreign to the appreciation of ibeji carvings; demonstrations of the carver's virtuosity would seem to detract rather than add to the value of the carvings. Taken together, all of these factors make it difficult for us to identify these carvings as works of art in any ordinary sense of this expression.

One can go on in this way to list examples of tribal carvings that resemble what we know as works of art but occupy a very different social space from that occupied by sculpture in our society, so that their classification as art becomes somewhat tenuous. Susan Vogel, for instance, has argued that some of the carvings of the Baule tribe of West Africa (the former Ivory Coast or Mali)--carvings that most of us would not hesitate to treat as paradigmatic examples of African art (Figure I)--are not appreciated for the features that Western art lovers would normally emphasize. According to Baule cosmology, all people have spiritual husbands (blolo bian) and wives (blolo bla) prior to their birth. These exist in blolo--the other world--which, while different from the world of the living, is parallel to it. A spiritual spouse may occasionally become jealous and contrive to disrupt the family lives of living partners. Impotence, infertility, and marital disharmony may all be construed by a diviner as the malign influence and interference of a blolo spouse, whose anger and jealousy upsets the relationship between living husbands and wives. When this happens, the diviner may prescribe a carved figure of the spiritual spouse, which is placed in a private space near the sleeping quarters of the troubled husband or wife where it is placated and appeased through prayers and offerings. Once a week the earthly spouse is required to sleep elsewhere, so that the spiritual couple may meet in their dreams and fulfil one another's needs.(16) In this way, the spiritual spouse will be appeased, and will stop wreaking havoc in the living spouse's family.


Certainly the carved figure should be attractive in order to please the spiritual spouse (to portray it as repulsive would clearly be offensive and would compound its jealousy), but the formal features that most living Bauleans appreciate are not related to what Westerners might regard as its beauty. The erect bearing of the female figure, for instance, indicates her moral probity; hands held at her sides or over her belly show that she is of good character, that she is compliant or obedient. The width of her neck is appreciated because it is indicative of physical strength--more specifically, it indicates her much-valued capacity to bear heavy loads, as do the muscular shape of her carves. However, the carving is primarily appreciated by Bauleans not for its physical features but for the function that it plays in their social life. Nor is this function of the carving entirely mythical; it does sometimes work. The husband who returns to his home to find that his wife has made offerings to, and has been fondling, her spiritual spouse will know that all is not well, may become jealous of the intrusions of the spiritual spouse, and may modify his behaviour in consequence.

The ways in which Baule tribesmen and women interact with these carvings, the ways in which they are displayed, how they are treated and appreciated, and the very specific functional value attached to them, suggest that such carvings occupy a very different social location from the location occupied by works of art in our culture, and that, as a result of this, it would at best be misleading, at worst inaccurate, to describe them as works of art.

Even so, those who favour the view that these Baulean carvings are works of art point to the fact that the religious paintings and sculptures in the cathedrals of Europe are not treated in the way that we now treat Picasso paintings and sculptures, that each occupies a different social space, but that does not disqualify Michelangelo's Pieta or Jan Van Eyck's The Adoration of the Lamb from being works of art.

While plausible, the rejoinder is misleading and overlooks two crucial points: first, that the European religious world and artworld overlap in subtle and highly complex ways at certain crucial points in history--in ways that allow a Van Eyck altarpiece, say, to be both a religious artefact and a work of art, but which do not allow Picasso's Goat to be both a religious artefact and a work of art. Second, the objection overlooks the fact that there is no known analogous social arrangement in which the carvings of spiritual spouses among the Baule occupy a place in the religious and artistic life of this tribe.

Of course it is always open to us to assimilate some of the carvings to what we, in our culture, regard as works of art. The mistake arises only if we insist that the Baule also regard them as works of art in our sense of this word. The mere fact that they resemble some cubist or primitivist sculptures does nothing to establish that the carvings in question are works of art. There are modern carvings of spiritual spouses which do not resemble Cubist sculptures, and which, rather like the plastic ibeji dolls of the Yoruba, do not tempt us to think of them as works of art. And yet we know that the modern carvings have the same cultural significance to Bauleans as those carvings that we are much more willing to regard as works of art.

An example will help us here. Were we to come across a model Pan Am aeroplane or Mercedes Benz (Figure 2) in a creche or a children's playground, we might identify the first as a toy plane, the second as a toy motor car. In their Ghanaian context, though, they are coffins designed to afford prestige the deceased and his family. A widely-travelled man might be buried in the aeroplane; a wealthy owner of a taxi fleet might be buried in the Mercedes Benz.(17) There are, of course, no thin descriptions in terms of which to identify them as coffins or as toys; how they are to be identified depends greatly on the beliefs, values, and practices that surrounds these objects. Most importantly, if Susan Vogel is correct, the cultural practice that surrounds these artifacts in Ghana allows them to be identified as works of art.(18) So whereas we would regard the person responsible for the coffins as an artisan or a carpenter or a craftsman, Kane Kwei (b. 1924)--the maker of the coffins-is considered an artist in twentieth-century Ghana, and scholars have treated his work as an instance of `New Functional Art'. In our society at present, similar artefacts would not be regarded as works of art, and this suggests that the two societies are differently configured in this matter; that the values and theories that pertain to art in Ghana are in some respects importantly different from the values and theories that form of part of the Western artworld.



All of this suggests that there are no art-making universals, no natural features shared by all works of art that make them art. One move, and a very desperate one, might be to suggest that Ghanaians or that scholars like Susan Vogel are simply mistaken when they regard New Functional Art as art; or, alternatively, that we are mistaken when we fail to recognize that Kane Kwei's coffins are works of art. On this view, art (like a rose) is a natural kind. According to it, there are certain natural facts that make something art, but that prevailing values and cultural beliefs prevent us from recognizing it as art.

But everything that I have so far said speaks against this. We may, of course, be naturally pleased by certain qualities of objects, physiologically stimulated by them, but such qualities, we know all too well, are never enough for art. In the same way, we may be naturally driven to create, and naturally driven to make beautiful things, but not all of the things that we create, and certainly not all of the beautiful things that we make, are works of art. Furthermore, were it true that some artefacts are works of art just because they instantiate an artistic universal, what could such a universal look like, and why have scholars been so slow to isolate it?

A rose, of course, is a natural kind; there are physical features or natural facts that roses must have in order to be roses, and botanists have no difficulty in isolating them in thinner rather than thicker descriptions. But there are no equivalent physical features that something must have in order to be a work of art. This, in the end, is why there just is no evidence for the view that art is a natural kind that instantiates certain artistic universals. And this is why, unlike a rose, what Picasso thought of as art by another name--by the name ibeji or blolo bla--may not `smell as sweet', and may very well not be art.

(1) David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2nd edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), p. 167.

(2) On this, see Francis Sparshott, `Art and Anthropology', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 55 (1997), pp. 239-243. See, as well, his The Theory of the Arts (Princeton, NJ: Princeton U.P., 1982).

(3) M. H. Abrams, `Art-as-Such', in Doing Things with Texts: Essays in Criticism and Critical Theory (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989).

(4) Francis Sparshott, `Art and Anthropology', p. 237.

(5) Larry Shiner, `"Primitive Fakes", "Tourist Art", and the Ideology of Authenticity', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 52 (1994), pp. 225-234, esp. p. 226.

(6) This was first argued by Denis Dutton, in `Artistic Crimes', in The Forger's Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). See, as well, his `Mythologies of Tribal Art', African Arts, Vol. 28 (1995), pp. 32-43.

(7) Sparshott, The Theory of the Arts, pp. 25-26.

(8) Sparshott, `Art and Anthropology', p. 239.

(9) Arthur Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P., 1981), ch. 1.

(10) For more on this, see my `Disputes about Art', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 54 (1996), pp. 153-163, esp. pp. 154-05.

(11) Monroe C. Beardsley, `Art and its Cultural Context', in Michael J. Wreen and Donald M. Callen (eds), The Aesthetic Point of View: Selected Essays (Ithaca, W. Cornell U.P., 1982), PP. 3 52- 370, esp. P. 370. My italics. A similar view is taken by Roger Scruton in The Aesthetics of Architecture (London: Methuen, 1979), pp. 248-249, where he writes that `the aesthetic sense ... is precisely devoted to the task of endowing the world with an order and meaning of that kind. Not only the man who builds but the man who lives with the product, must see the building in relation to himself... in that process his humanity may be either rebutted or confirmed.'

(12) For more about the moral ethos that inclines us to accede to the claim that certain artefacts are works of art, even when we think that them demonstrably bad art, see my `Disputes about Art', pp.159-162.

(13) Cf. Colin Martindale, The Clockwork Muse: The Predictability of Artistic Change (London: Basic Books, 199). Martindale believes that stylistic change in art can be fully accounted for in terms of a natural propensity on the part of human beings to seek novelty and innovation. If this is a natural requirement of art, as he thinks it is, it disqualifies certain tribal artefacts (especially ritual objects like traditional masks and dances) from being properly regarded as works of art (or artistic performances)--even though they are commonly so regarded. It most probably also disqualifies much European medieval iconography as art. What Martindale overlooks is the extent to which much of what we call art also functions as a conservative force that entrenches established values, practices, and traditions, and so remains unchanged for considerable periods of time.

(14) For more on this, see Robert F. Thompson, `Yoruba Artistic Criticism', in W. d'Azevedo (ed.), The Traditional Artist in African Societies (Bloomington: Indiana U.P., 1989).

(15) See Africa Explores: 20th Century Art, ed. Susan Vogel (New York: The Center for African Art, 1988), pp. 88-90. It is important to notice that the rules of proportion and luminosity are preserved in plastic ibeji dolls.

(16) See Robin Poynor, African Art and the Harn Museum: Spirits, Eyes, Human Hands (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995), pp. 168-171.

(17) See Susan Vogel, `Future Traditions', in Africa Explores, pp. 94-111, esp. pp. 98-99.

(18) Ibid. Vogel categorizes Kane Kwei as a New Functional Artist, but makes no defence of her claim that he is an artist rather than a craftsman, or of the claim that the coffins he produces are works of art rather than functional artefacts.

David Novitz, Department of Philosophy, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand.
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Author:Novitz, David
Publication:The British Journal of Aesthetics
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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