I agree that a multi-faceted approach can be useful. But sometimes it isn’t always available. For instance, no one had heard of Vermeer when his work was (re)-discovered after centuries. Even today, we know very little about Vermeer. His work stands on its own, without ever knowing anything about Vermeer. Even as we speculate on his process, it doesn’t add or take away from what he created. It may be interesting, but if no one speculated his work will still be great and still be art.
On the other hand, a multi-faceted approach exposed the Vermeer fraudster, Megeren. Megeren’s self-posed question is the interesting part of that story:
“Yesterday, this painting was worth millions of guilders and experts and art lovers would come from all over the world and pay money to see it. Today, it is worth nothing and nobody would cross the street to see it for free. But the picture has not changed. What has?”
His intent, to lie and defraud, actually bore him out.
IMO, Time is the final arbiter of what is and isn’t art. Or at the very least what is great art. I know no aesthete wants to hear that. But ultimately aesthetics is to art what ornithology is to birds. It is trying to understand what already exists. And there is no art until it is created.
The moment we try to impose arbitrary rules we end up with bitter critics like Roger Scruton. So I applaude at least trying to take a more holistic approach to discovery. In one sense, how I read one person put it, there is no art only artists. To me, the answer to what is art or whether something is art is simply “We’ll have to wait and see.”
I really enjoyed your post and appreciate the dialogue.