ART vs CRAFT: Is Art Superior to Craft?



What comes to mind when you hear the term “art”?

The Starry Night by Van Gogh, The Thinker by Rodin or The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire? Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, perhaps? There must be many references popping up in your mind.

So, what comes to mind now when I say “Craft”? I’m hoping it’s not entirely blank.

In fact, the two words “Art” and “Craft” often appear next to each other. There are even courses called “Arts and Crafts”. So, what exactly is the difference between the two?

What is certain is that it is unwise to mix them up. However,  It is also unreasonable to totally separate these two terms completely.


When you are amazed by a certain item you saw and try to make a compliment such as  “Wow such art!”. Maybe the item in front of you is actually craft. 

In order to avoid similar embarrassing situations, let’s take a look that what the differences are between them, technically.

Art and craft are usually forms of visual creation, but there are essential differences between the two.



Art, as a form of visual creation with a wide range of possibilities, encompasses the creator’s concept, emotion, feeling, and vision. Art’s value is built out of its originality and creativity, thus what it delivers to people is not restricted to the aesthetic dimension, but also means allowing to think. Different individuals may experience and interpret the same artwork in various ways. It is impossible to judge the quality and value of one artwork based solely on its objective presentation form.

Art is used to evaluate its value from a creative standpoint, and it can be deemed a person’s intrinsic aptitude to some level.

“Fine art is the art of genius,” Kant stated.

Genius is the talent which gives the rule to art. Since talent, as an innate productive faculty of the artist, belongs itself to nature, we may put it this way: Genius is the innate mental aptitude through which nature gives the rule to art.  

Whatever may be the merits of this definition, and whether it is merely arbitrary, or whether it is adequate or not to the concept usually associated with the word genius, it may still be shown at the outset that, according to this acceptance of the word, fine arts must necessarily be regarded as arts of genius.


Craft refers to an activity based on skills and techniques acquired through learning and training, mainly for aesthetic and functional purposes. It emphasises the correct use of tools and materials to achieve the expected production standards. In most cases, craft is reproducible. It is a summary of techniques and experience.

Carpets, embroidery, jewellery, porcelain can be defined as crafts. 

​​This is not difficult to understand. Feel free to call Duchamp’s Fountain a piece of art, but you cannot call it a craft.


Craft may turn into art over time, which is a process. This process, however, is not obligatory for creating art.

Duchamp’s Fountain, as I mentioned previously. To illustrate this point, I cannot think of a better example than conceptual art. Conceptual art is art for which the idea (or concept) behind the work is more important than the finished art object. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, all planning and decisions are made beforehand, and the execution is done a perfunctory affair.


Many people think that art is superior to craft because of the universal reproducibility of craft. The rationality of what they say is based on modern culture and people’s needs.

Consider the Yohen Tenmoku from China’s Song Dynasty from a historical standpoint. It is distinguished by the natural appearance of numerous dots on its surface. Coloured halos of red, green, sky blue and other hues surround these dots, shining in various light directions. As far as the production process is concerned, only the enamel and kiln fire can be formed unintentionally in an extremely dynamic environment. There are only three left on the planet. They are all considered national treasures.

How can you define it? As art or craft?

This is just an example, but it can well illustrate that we cannot arbitrarily prioritise the value of art and craft.

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Although there are certain differences between art and craft, they are not absolute.

Art serves people’s aesthetics, and art has a different definition for everyone.

If someone imposes his definition of art on you, you can tell him this and then just walk away:

I think it is art, that is what makes it art.

The process of watching, understanding, and interpreting itself is art.

This is the meaning of art.

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