Thomas Hoving was director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Central Park, New York. He suggests that 'art' should answer positively to questions like: Does the creative work surprise you, each time when you look at it? Does it properly express what it wants to express? Do you continuously value it? Do you discover each time new ways to look at it? Is it difficult not to look at it? Does it maintain some mystery? Does it add some value to your life? And I would add: does it inspire? Does it seduce you? Or give new energy and courage…..?
Clearly, the answers will always have a large extent of subjectivity. The creative work will communicate differently with you or me. And there is nothing about 'beauty'; apparently art can also be ugly, irritating, offensive.
Art is part of society, so with all the games of interests and power relations, influence of ideologies and politics. The institutional part makes it all very complex. The 'rules of the game' are determined in a subtle way by a small elitist group. The challenge of democratization of art is important but not new. So the question 'what is art' is not only a subjective and esthetical issue but also very political. Hoving's questions are useful, but his definition is too wide and lacks the critical and political dimensions.