Artists, Dabblers, Dilettantes The Modernity of Hegel's concept of 'work of art'


  • Marie-Luise Raters Universität Potsdam



ugly art, contemporary art, profane art, Hegel


The essay argues for the modernity of Hegel's concept of the ‘profane work of art’. (1) The first part rejects three standard objections to the modernity of Hegel's concept of ‘work of art’. (2) The second part deals with the function of the physical form of the artwork. (3) The third part emphasizes (in discussion with prominent ‘Hegelian aesthetics’) that the profane art after the ‘end of art’ is absolutely free in its contents. (3) For Hegel the artists of all eras have to have the technical skills to embody an interesting content adequately in the different physical materials of the arts. This distinguishes the artist (in contemporary art as well as in the art of past epochs) from dabblers and dilettantes. So the fourth part briefly sketches out what an 'adequate embodiment’ could be. (5) Without discussing details the essay at the end draws the following conclusion:  Hegel’s aesthetics is not out of time because of his concept of the profane work of art. The profane work of art is created as an adequate physical embodiment of an interesting content.  An adequate physical embodiment is (i) clear, but also (ii) complex and puzzling, and it is (iii) technically perfect. And the leading thesis is that all great works of art (and especially the great works of art of our time) are well described by this concept.