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Efficient CausationA History$
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Tad M. Schmaltz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199782185

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199782185.001.0001

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efficient causation in art

(p.311) Reflection
Efficient Causation

Tina Rivers Ryanp

Oxford University Press

One of the central assumptions of Western art is that the artist is the efficient cause of the work of art. One source of this idea is the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, who famously refused to work with assistants, contributing to a conception of art making that has remained hegemonic for centuries. A major challenge arose in the twentieth century, particularly when Duchamp emphasized the role of the viewer (and chance processes) in the determination of the work’s ultimate form and meaning. Duchamp’s ideas were popularized by Warhol, who claimed to want to efface himself entirely from the artistic process. Though the attempt by successive generations of artists to distance themselves from their work is one of the major stories of twentieth-century art, the art market today undermines this attempt by fetishizing the artist’s name as guarantee of a work’s quality.

Keywords:   art theory, artist, efficient causation, Duchamp, Michelangelo, Warhol

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