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Art has taken many forms over the course of our history, and our definitions  of it have changed dramatically, too. Plato believed it to be an imitation of nature, and we held on to that notion for many years, but by the 19th century, photography had largely filled this role.

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In the 20th century, abstract art presented the idea that art was far more than simply representation. Art is a mysterious beast, and its interpretation remains incredibly subjective, yet, as a society, we still find boundaries within studio walls that keep our brains from bursting over the question: What is art?

The art world says that anything can be art, so long as an artist says it is. Just think of the artist Marcel Duchamp and his infamous white porcelain urinal that challenged our notion of art to its core. It was the “loo that shook the world,” signed “R.Mutt” and titled Fountain. And that was back in 1917. So should we really be surprised that some people call splashing a bunch of paint on a wall art? Or someone sitting for 700 consecutive hours?

Deciding what makes something art may not make aesthetic or philosophical sense, but somehow, someway, something becomes art because someone says it is. It’s all about power. But this is constantly called into question by artists and art enthusiasts alike. Must art be beautiful? Original? Intellectual? Art continues to move away from its traditional definitions, and even a prank can cause the question of ‘what is art’ to arise.

Two teens from San Francisco placed a pair of eye glasses on the floor of an art museum recently as a response to being unimpressed with the art offered at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. But what was simply a joke turned into a much deeper conversation when visitors mistakenly assumed the glasses were part of the exhibit and began taking photographs of them as they mulled over what the piece of this modern “art” could be.

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One of the teens, 17-year-old  T.J. Khayatan, documented the public’s response and uploaded pictures of the encounter to Twitter. The photos went viral, and have been shared over 40,000 times.

While the prank created hilarity, it likely stirred up the topic on the mystery that is art, and what makes people so inclined to distinguish something like a pair of glasses as art simply because they were placed in a space designated for that realm.


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