Is It Design or Is It Art? Or Does Your Checkbook Even Care?


A couple of weeks back, we were reporting on the hot new trend of skipping all that painted and sculpted junk and instead collecting pieces of design by people like Zaha Hadid. Now Helen Kirwan-Taylor over at The Wall Street Journal has jumped into the game, raising the question in the title of her piece, “Is This Art? Or Just Really Expensive Furniture?” Turns out, the answer is just as muddled as anything that comes when you start wondering what makes something “art.” In the end, like currency values and elections, it boils down to “because enough people start believing it.” Here’s a bit:

Architect David Chipperfield, winner of the Stirling Prize last year, dismissed the label. “Design art is neither fish nor fowl. Everyone is looking to cash in.”

Others add that the “art” label isn’t necessary to justify high prices for ground-breaking design. “There is no reason why a piece of design that took a great deal of time and money to be made and cannot be manufactured industrially should not command a hefty price,” said Ms. Levete, the designer. “What I don’t like is when designers try and pass something off as art. Art is different, the sensitivity of an artist is different to that of a designer’s, and I don’t think something called design is interesting unless it can be used.”