Arthur Danto

Arthur Danto, arguably the most influential philosopher of aesthetics of the last 50 years, has died at the age of 89.

His approach to aesthetics took a Wittgensteinian turn, one which straddled the fence with relativism:

In a 1964 essay Danto coined the term “artworld”, which he defined as the cultural and historical context in which a work of art is created. The notion laid the groundwork for the philosopher George Dickie’s institutional theory of art, which states that an artefact becomes a work of art when “the artworld” confers “upon it the status of a candidate for appreciation”.

Twenty years later, Danto published his most famous essay, “The End of Art”. In it, he recounts a visit to Andy Warhol’s exhibition of Brillo boxes at the Stable Gallery in 1964 and argues that the show marked the end of art history. By turning art into its own philosophy, the Brillo boxes ushered in a new era of pluralism and “post-historical art”. “If artists wished to participate in this progress, they would have to undertake a study very different from what the art schools could prepare them for. They would have to become philosophers,” he wrote.

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