Aphorisms for Artists by Walter Darby Bannard

Aphorism #72

“Art for art’s sake” means art for our sake.

“Art for art’s sake” was a slogan of the 19th century Aesthetic Movement. It meant that art’s value stood apart from moral or utilitarian use. Its awkward wording (think “food for food’s sake”) helps it to be misunderstood to mean that art stands apart from all human concerns.

Art, like many things, can be used for whatever one wants to use it for, but the source of its value is aesthetic. It delivers a kind of pleasure which brings us something profound that we can’t put into words. This is what the phrase really means. It is as “human” as anything can be.

There is so much cultural evidence for this that the misuse of the term, which is all too frequent, is usually evidence of bad faith.

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