Art history 20th century | art history 20th century | Abilene Christian University

Category: History

Beginning as early as 1912, Marcel Duchamp called the value of art into question. So great 

was his skepticism that he abandoned art after a short career (or at least he appeared to). 

Nevertheless, and in spite of his efforts to undermine art, his work and ideas have had a profound 

impact on the direction and character of art in our own time.

Consider the following question and provide a response: Why and in what ways is art of 

value? What features or aspects of art make it valuable for society? These are fundamental 

questions that lie behind our discipline, our chosen careers. If art isn’t valuable, then there’s no 

need for artists or for a study of art’s history.

These questions can be answered from a number of different perspectives: 1) An artist’s 

viewpoint: How is the practice of art valuable to the artist, the maker? 2) An observer’s viewpoint: 

How is art valuable to a viewer? What benefits does society receive from art? 3) The art object: 

What specific criteria or features make art something worth preserving or something worth 

experiencing? What sets it apart from other created objects, for example shoes or automobiles?

Choose a single perspective to investigate or develop a more holistic approach that explains 

how art is valuable for the maker, how making imbues the art with significance, and how the work 

bestows benefits on a viewer. Explain your criteria for value: what constitutes value?

Provide and point to examples of artworks (painting, print, drawing, sculpture, or building) as 

needed to support your argument. When a work of art is presented as evidence of value, describe 

what benefits accrue to the person who creates, experiences, or comes to know this work. Be 

sure to include reproductions of artworks you refer to in your paper and provide an appropriate 

label and citation.

You must do research to expand your knowledge of different arguments made for the value 

of art and to support the positions you ultimately present in your paper. Other fields of knowledge 

like philosophy, psychology, anthropology, religion, and the sciences have much to add to a 

discussion of the value of art. Use these to present a broad but focused argument for art’s value. A

minimum of 5 substantive sources is required, properly cited in MLA style. It is inappropriate to 

use a dictionary or encyclopedia as one of these sources!

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