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Can I use "art" instead of "art form"?

  1. "Music and dancing are absolutely art forms."
  2. "Music and dancing are absolutely art."
  3. "Photography is an art form."
  4. "Photography is art."
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    Your use of absolutely (and synonymous totally) in #1 and #2 is a bit "slangy", but apart from that there's nothing wrong with any of them (but in more formal contexts you might be better using something like definitely, unquestionably, or certainly for the first two). Nov 13, 2020 at 16:30
  • Thank you. But regarding "an art form" and and "art"? Are all my sentences correct? Nov 13, 2020 at 16:35
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    Yes - "there's nothing wrong with any of them". It would also be perfectly possible to use the article with just the unqualified noun: Photography is an art. And you could include a straightforward adjective (as opposed to a noun used adjectivally) with or without that article: Photography is [not] high art, Photography is visual art. Nov 13, 2020 at 17:16
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    You might find some relevant info in this question that I asked on ELU some years ago regarding use of articles with certain "abstract nouns". Nov 13, 2020 at 17:22

3 Answers 3

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Yes, art and art form can be interchangeable, though they aren't identical. Art can be used not just for types of artistic expression, but for individual works of art as well, whereas art form specifically refers to some kind of practice or medium of creating art.

For example:

Painting, photography, sculpting, and dancing are art forms.

A specific painting, photograph, sculpture, or dance routine is art.

Van Gogh's "Starry Night" is not an art form. But it is art.

All of your sentences are acceptable, as people do use "art" as a general term to refer to all things related to art, forms of art included. But as the other answer notes, it can be desirable to make the distinction anyway, with sentences 2. and 4. being less precise than sentences 1. and 3.

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    Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" is not an art form. But it is art. And it is an example of an art form (being the earliest artwork classified under "Cubism"). I'm not an art historian, so I don't know whether "Starry Night" would qualify as an example of an identifiable, known and named "art form" as with the Picasso. Nov 13, 2020 at 17:41
  • If I am talking about a particular painter, should I use the article before "art"? For example, "I like art of Picasso" or "I like the art of Picasso." Nov 14, 2020 at 9:25
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    @AntoniaA "I like the art of Picasso" is the grammatically correct choice between those two, but it doesn't sound entirely natural. In my experience, a more common way of phrasing it would be "I like Picasso's art."
    – MarielS
    Nov 14, 2020 at 17:11
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Your sentences are all grammatical, but 1 and 3 are better choices. "Art" has many different meanings, but one is "paintings" as in "art collector." Thus, 2 and, particularly 4, are somewhat confusing.

You could replace "art" with "arts" in sentence 2 and avoid that potential confusion. You could replace "art" with "an art" in sentence 4 and avoid that potential confusion.

In short, all four sentences are grammatical, but 2 and 4 are not artfully worded.

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  • Some art collectors do collect photographs. Nov 14, 2020 at 14:12
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They're certainly all grammatical. However, in my opinion, the phrase "____ is [an] art" is almost a set phrase, and usually connotes a value judgment. See also: "But is it art?" and "This is art."

  • Sculpture is an art form. (Factual statement describing the meaning of the word "sculpture.")

  • Sculpture is an art. (The speaker is judging the aesthetic worth of the sculptural arts, and finding sculpture to be aesthetically worthwhile.)

On very close inspection, I also imagine a difference in focus: "Sculpture is an art form" seems to use the word "sculpture" to talk only about the medium, i.e. the end product (sculptures). "Sculpture is an art" seems to me to connote a little more about the whole process, including how to choose one's subject matter, how to compose and frame it, and so on. I might just be getting some bleed-over from how I would imagine the Wikipedia article might start: "Sculpture is the art of carving or modeling..." "Photography is the art of creating durable images by recording light..." which naturally frames the art as an ongoing mechanical and creative process.

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    So, to you, the phrase “art form” has no aesthetic dimension; it merely describes an activity with a physical result so we can say “Murder is an art form.” Nov 14, 2020 at 14:27
  • Well, I wouldn't say no aesthetic dimension; but yes, to me, the sentence "Murder is an art form" connotes something slightly more physical in nature than the more abstract "Murder is an art" (which might include some tangentially related processes such as getting away with it, and so on, and the speaker might be looking down his nose at those who treat it as merely the artful creation of physical artifacts such as dead bodies). The two sentences certainly are not opposites; I just claim that to me, they have slightly different connotations. (Perhaps analogous to "artisan" vs "artist"?) Nov 14, 2020 at 19:41

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