Danto did not opt for a relativistic position, such as ‘anything can be art’. He tried to identify some essential characteristics. In his view, works of art are ‘embodied meanings’. It is not clear what he meant with ‘embodiment’, probably some foundational property. I understand Danto’s concept of art as follows (thereby restricting myself to the visual arts, for practical reasons). A creative work will be ‘art’ if it meets four conditions. The work will have a certain subject (this may already be problematic in case of abstracts or minimalism). It will visualize an interpretation or point of view of that subject (using a certain composition, material and style). It will allow a ‘rhetorical ellipsis’, which means an omission in the image which must be supplied by the observer. This refers to the interaction between the work and the observer (which is difficult to steer by the artist). And finally, the appreciation of the work will be framed by the art historical context. This of course is a reference to the ‘institutionalist’ dimension, the influence of the art elite on the definition and valuation of a work (again, difficult to be steered by the artist).
If a work will be considered as art is therefore only partly the result of the artist’s performance, the other part is determined by external conditions.