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Art + Design

Recently, The Art Genome Project dramatically increased its genes for Design and Decorative Arts. While years of cross-pollination between Art and Design definitely made our job easier, along the way we have had to engage with some fundamental (and quite difficult) questions, which we are still grappling with. A few of them are as follows, as well as our basic answers to them (as of this point):

What is the line between Art and Design, and is this even important?

In general, the difference between art and design is based on the intent of the maker. Despite any aesthetic similarities, if an object was primarily intended by the maker to solve a problem and/or meet the functional needs of others, then it should be considered design and not art. Of course, some designers willfully subvert the imperative that design be useful. As conceptual designer Vincent Dubourg has said of his deconstructed armoire: “I like the idea of creating something beautiful out of something broken.” 

Is it useful to draw comparisons between Art and Design objects? 

In a very broad sense, Art and Design are both capable of functioning conceptually and formally. More specifically, The Art Genome Project allows often unexpected commonalities between Art and Design to be understood by allowing for a large variety of possible connections, i.e. through styles, movements, materials, concepts, techniques, and visual attributes, among other aspects. We believe seeing such commonalities and comparisons particularly furthers an understanding of art and design and of historical relationships between them.

When an artist produces a design object should it be given equal weight as their artwork? (And vice-versa, is an “art object” created by a designer inherently superior to their design work?)

This is still a very open question for us even though historically it has been very clear that functional objects by "fine artists" have not been studied that closely. For example, it was arguably only recently with the Museum of Arts and Design’s exhibition "Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler" that jewelry by well-known fine artists was seriously examined at all. One thing that is fascinating to us is how complex an artist's relationship between making art and design can be. In other words, artists make jewelry, furniture or vessels for so many different reasons. 

While The Art Genome Project has just begun the process of integrating design and fine art objects, the links being made by the genome are exciting for us to see. With a combination of new design genes and existing visual categories, works from both fine arts and decorative arts are coming together in new ways. Happy searching and as always, feel free to send us your feedback!