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The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art
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The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  356 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Arthur C. Danto argues that recent developments in the art world, in particular the production of works of art that cannot be told from ordinary things, make urgent the need for a new theory of art and make plain the factors such a theory can and cannot involve. In the course of constructing such a theory, he seeks to demonstrate the relationship between philosophy and art ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 15th 1983 by Harvard University Press (first published 1981)
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Jee Koh
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this work of philosophy, Danto wishes to define art, and to show why contemporary art, having attained self-consciousness, is asking the same questions as philosophy. His approach throughout the book is to compare artworks with what he calls mere real things, when both are indiscernibly alike. The two classes of things, as he argues, belong to different ontological realms, hence, the title of his book. The artist performs a transfiguration of the commonplace when he makes of his materials a w ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think it goes without saying that this is one of the capital works in the field of the theory of art. However, what I found most valuable were the examples Danto provides in his unique, creative yet extremely logical and well-founded manner. By concentrating on several controversial artworks and giving a philosophical background, he challenges the definition of art but also provides acceptable alternatives. And he manages to do all of this in an entertaining way!
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Danto is asking an interesting question in Transfiguration of the Commonplace: what is it that we are responding to when we have an aesthetic experience? He pursues this question by investigating two identical objects, one’s an art object while the other is not. In the history of art, artists have asked similar questions by dragging everyday objects into the museum, think of Duchamp and Warhol, but Danto’s imagined examples make the question even purer. We have three art objects, ( all art objec ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Danto is refreshing because he's a philosopher who actually knows his shit when it comes to art, as opposed to one who is "intrinsically philistine" and “singularly insensitive to art” like Kant (Danto's words, not mine), or other figures like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche who were consumers and admirers of art but fell short of a true art theory or art history understanding of it. More admirable still is he's an Analytic but he defies the unfair caricature of analytics as unpersonable gremlins wri ...more
Henrique Iwao
Terminei de reler, agora em português e muito detidamente, nessa bela edição, essa obra prima da filosofia da arte. Escrito na década de 80 mas mergulhado na cena da arte pop dos Estados Unidos da década de 60-70, especialmente da pintura, o livro propõe uma ontologia da obra de arte própria, em torna da ideia de que uma obra de arte tem um assunto, colocado de modo representacional e sob um certo estilo, convidando-nos à prática da interpretação, a partir de um contexto artístico. As obras se c ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was fairly skeptical of this text at first because so much of the initial discussion seemed concerned with questions of definition that rested on unfair assumptions about conceptual rigidity. But even in those early pages Danto's thought is full of fascinating connections between different areas of philosophy/art, and his use of thought-experiments is always stimulating. And as the text progressed I thought it stopped spending too much time on those assumptions and turned into an incredibly ri ...more
Teodora Lovin
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Citită imediat după cartea lui de Duve (deși a fost scrisă cu câțiva ani înaintea ei), cartea lui Arthur C. Danto caută să dea o definiție artei luând prin eliminare elementele compoziționale, stilistice și, de ce nu, metafizice ce creează o operă de artă.
Privit în paralel cu "În numele artei", studiul său e ceva mai compact și mai bine centrat pe ceea ce îl interesează pe el - arta modernă, de la Duchamp încoace, și problematica unui element definitoriu pentru ceea ce (mai) înseamnă arta în ge
Ann Michael
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was not, I admit, expecting to enjoy this book but just to learn from it. Danto, however, is a surprisingly entertaining philosophical writer. I love that he takes his title from a fictional book (from Muriel Sparks' The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). As a philosophy of Art, Danto's theories work quite well as a groundwork for thinking about what art "is" or may be, and what it is not, and where the difficulties lie in discerning between those purported opposites.

My favorite chapters are 4 and 5
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
- Duchamp was the first to perform the subtle miracle of transforming, into works of art, objects from commonplace existance (a bicycle wheel, a pipe, a urinal, etc) and Warhol was probably the best known (his Brillo Boxes for example) but artists such as these (and hundreds like them, and inspired by them) have made the art world revisit the age-old adage "What is art?"
- Danto is a brilliant academic (Art Critic for The Nation Magazine, Professor of Philosophy/Art/History), and I don't for a s
Lauren Albert
Oct 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book. My copy is now peppered with post-it flags. I wish I had a Kindle copy so that I could easily copy quotes. Anyway, whether you agree or disagree with Danto, his discussions of what makes art, art are smart and comprehensive. He is also that rare thing--a philosopher who gives examples! He brings abstractions about art down-to-earth using real or hypothetical examples. There are definitely more difficult parts but I found it a lot more readable than most contemporary philosophy. ...more
Andreas Antoniou
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A good book about art (Danto emphasizes on visual arts), from the view of analytic philosophy. It has some very interesting arguments about the questions of imitation in art or the cognitive power of the work of art.
The only thing that really didn't like is that the book is so dedicated to clarify the details of the relation between knowledge and art, that it forgets to include the aesthetic part of it. Considering the fact that art is a primary aesthetic phaenomenon, the book fails (in my opin
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Danto is a great explainer of art. I recently started teaching an Art Appreciation class at ITT for our Multimedia/Visual Communications students, and I was surprised at how much of Danto's understanding and approach to art have been incorporated into my fundamental understanding of how to look at and understand art. ...more
Aug 04, 2008 marked it as to-read
Eek. I need a dictionary and a notebook for this one but Danto articulates and defends his philosophy of art very concisely. More to come but it might take a while. Although thin, this one is hefty...
May 12, 2007 added it
The fundamental question this book addresses is "What is art?" Danto provides a few answers, but leaves the field open for interpretation. I expected to be infuriated by his ideas but ended up completely devoted. Any book that makes you want to make is a good one. ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I find Danto's theories to be, at times, problematic, but he is an engaging writer (something of a rarity amongst most art philosophers these days, I find) and although I initially borrowed this for what proved to be a rather tiresome essay, I enjoyed reading it. ...more
Luke Echo
hmmm.. i'm not sure I agree with Danto. ...more
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophical
The first art philosophy book I read that seemed to make sense.
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I had an Aesthetics course this semester past, and though this text mis-translates a Borges story, it still manages to be very good. (Wow, this shows just how long ago I've looked at this site.) ...more
Mar 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
I think his theory leaves a lot to be desired, and has several holes. But, overall, it is a good read and fairly entertaining.
John Herman
Dec 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Revolutionary book. Philsosophy finally caught up with 20th century art.
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Mar 28, 2015
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Arthur C. Danto was Johnsonian Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Columbia University and art critic for The Nation. He was the author of numerous books, including Unnatural Wonders: Essays from the Gap Between Art and Life, After the End of Art, and Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective.

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