Meaning in Art
The phrase art for art's sake is one that many people have heard. But what does that mean? It seems to imply there isn't any meaning to art. But can there be no meaning to acts that involve human creativity and imagination and skill? Hardly so.
The New Oxford American Dictionary in part says this about art: "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."
To put it in a very modern perspective consider this definition of "art car" from The New Oxford American Dictionary: "a car or other four-wheel motor vehicle decorated as a work of art."
Art with Meaning
The Art Car
A car that is skillfully painted with artistic designs brings the meaning of art and how different people can relate to it to a sharper focus. It brings art to where the rubber meets the road. Pun and mixed metaphor intended. Does such art have meaning? Yes, certainly to its creator and anyone that admires the artist work. Many people go to see art cars at parades, festivals, and museums.
Cars as an art canvas are a reminder that art surrounds people in objects like greeting cards, designer cups, wallpaper, e-book and conventional book covers, and t-shirts. The drawing for the TV show Cheers is a great example of art in daily life.
The forgoing examples of art expression give visual and emotional meaning to people's lives. If they were completely gone life would become so drab.
Getting back to the original phrase under discussion, art for art's sake, it comes from a French expression "l'art pour l'ar " which means real art doesn't teach a moral and it doesn't have any practical use. This French idea said that art was complete on its own.
But the original concept has been changed to mean in the colloquial "meaningless" when someone uses the expression about a piece of art he doesn't understand.