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What are the Arts?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 23, 2024
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The arts include visual, performing, language, culinary, and physical arts. This encompasses a wider range of activities than the colloquial meaning of "art," which tends to focus on visual forms, like painting and sculpture. The arts are an important part of culture and a means by which billions of people express themselves.

Broadly, the category can be divided into the "plastic arts," involving the manipulation of some external material — such as painting, sculpting, and architecture — and the performing arts, which includes music, dance, opera, theater, and so on.

The arts have been practiced for as long as there have been human beings. Some of the first archaeological evidence of art dates back to cave paintings found in France, dated to 40,000 years ago, not long after humans first started colonizing Europe. These paintings were often of animals such as bison, horses, aurochs, and deer. Tracings of human hands were sometimes found, but actual images of humans were rare.

Art really took off in Classical Antiquity, around 800 BC. Emerging from the shadows of the Bronze Age collapse, Greek civilization created thousands of beautiful statues, plays, and works of architecture, many of which remain popular to this day. Prior to Classical Antiquity, there were various localized civilizations, including Mesopotamia, India, China, and the Pre-Columbian civilizations, that produced artistic works still admired today.

One of the most famous figures in the arts is William Shakespeare, a English playwright who lived in the late 16th and early 17th century. He is often considered the greatest writer of the English language, and his 38 plays are performed in schools and play-houses worldwide.

Another legendary artist was Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the late 15th and early 16th century. His name is synonymous with the Renaissance in Europe. Da Vinci was a scientist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, and writer.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov , Writer
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated Musical Expert contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.

Discussion Comments

By pleonasm — On Feb 05, 2014

@clintflint - A really fantastic documentary that investigates that kind of line is "Exit Through the Gift Shop" which is supposedly about the graffiti artist known as Banksy, but actually turns out to be more about the man who shot a lot of the footage.

He decides that he wants to be an artist as well and essentially rips off Banksy's style, but without the same ideology behind it.

He's perfectly straight about his intention, which is to make money. He just doesn't get the fact that he's missing the point about art.

But the thing is, he sells a lot of paintings and becomes rich. So was he really missing the point? Or was he just kind of making his own point? You have to wonder if it's really art if it is made entirely to sell a collection of canvas and paint, rather than to communicate something.

By clintflint — On Feb 04, 2014

@browncoat - Unfortunately, there's no avoiding money when it comes to arts organizations and even for individuals money is often a problem. Decent art supplies are not cheap, particularly in the traditional arts. A tube of oil paint can be upwards of a hundred dollars and that would just be for one color.

And then you get the fact that people think of art as an investment. It's something they think they can depend on to appreciate in value.

But in many ways that is a very artificial construct. Art only has the value that we give it. And we should give it value but I do think it occasionally goes a bit overboard.

By browncoat — On Feb 03, 2014

I mean, you could argue that there has been art ever since there have been human beings, because the advent of art is what distinguishes us as human. We might get cats or dolphins to paint modern art, but they don't really have a conception of what art is, as far as we can tell. Only a human being has the ability to recognize something so abstract.

I think sometimes we get a little bit too caught up in the money side of things when it comes to art though.

Michael Anissimov

Michael Anissimov


Michael Anissimov is a dedicated Musical Expert contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology,...
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