No, it’s not just art that’s fine. The term is a confusing one and is often thrown around lightly to describe anything arty. However, it has got some historical meaning and grounding.
Fine art originated from the European (i.e. Western) academic traditions. It’s a word that is used to describe any type of art that is created purely for aesthetic or intellectual reasons. In simpler terms, it is any art produced merely to create something beautiful and not for any functional purpose - in contrast to things such as pottery, metalwork or furniture making for example.
It sounds quite pretentious and in some senses it was. Historically, it was a very bourgeois and luxuriant concept - to set aside money and space in your home for something that was ostentatious and completely impractical. However, those bougie traditions become more of a mainstay in modern society as many people saw how much joy and positivity, and in return creativity, productivity, peace and tolerance, can be generated through surrounding ourselves with beauty and cultural artefacts.
It’s important to know that the drastic separation of Fine Art (which has been considered ‘high art’) and crafts (or what has been deemed ‘low art’) was created in Western society. In other cultures - such as Japanese, Chinese, Latin American, and Indigenous, to name a few - this distinction is more fluid and art is not elevated to a realm of impracticality and excessiveness. Rather, art is integrated into everyday life.
Historically, there were five main artistic media that were considered Fine Art: painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry. Performing arts including theatre and dance were later considered part of the Fine Arts. In our Contemporary era, we also now include new technologies like film, photography, video production, video editing, design, sound art, conceptual art and printmaking.
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