The definition of art is a universal question that man has constantly been trying to answer throughout the past twentieth century. The term "art" is considered a relatively modern term. (Witcombe, 1) Most objects that we regard as art today were not considered art when they were being produced. For example, medieval manuscripts or painted Greek pottery, were made in times when people had no concept of what "art" was. (Witcombe, 2) These objects were appreciated, but not as we understand them today. (Witcombe, 2) Thus, humans recognized art differently throughout the centuries. .
The idea of an object being a "work of art" was not considered until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Italy. (Witcombe, 4) First used during the Renaissance, the word "art" was a collective term for sculpture, painting, and architecture. (Witcombe, 5) The word was thought up by the artist and biographer, Giorgio Vasari in the sixteenth century. (Witcombe, 5) Actually, during the Middle Ages and Ancient World, the word "art" today translates to any activity governed by rules.(Witcombe, 7) Therefore, it can be seen that painting and sculpture were included among a number of human activities, such as shoemaking and weaving, which today we would call crafts. (Witcombe) .
The institutionalizing of art in the academies during the nineteenth century eventually provoked a reaction to its strictures and definitions. (Witcombe, 10) This resulted in new claims that were made about the nature of painting and sculpture. By the middle of the century, "modernist" approaches were being introduced, which adopted new subject matter and values. (Witcombe, 10) Largely, the new modern artists rejected the standards and principles of the academies and the Renaissance traditions. (Witcombe, 10).
All traditional notions of the identity of the artist and art were thrown in disarray by Marcel Duchamp and his Dada associates during the early twentieth century.