In 1973, the philosopher George Dickie proposed an ingenious new answer to the old question: what is art? Arthood, he suggested, is not an intrinsic property of objects, but a status conferred upon them by the institutions of the art world. He accordingly attached an exemplary significance to works like Duchamp's urinal, whose very lack of intrinsic distinction focuses our attention upon their institutional context. But his theory was about art in general, and not just readymades. ‘I am not claiming that Duchamp and his friends invented the conferring of the status of art; they simply used an existing institutional device in an unusual way.’
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