Kant notes that:
Thus art is for Kant the beautiful presentation of some form, and through it, the presentation of an æsthetic idea which lies beyond the realm of the concepts and the categories. Through this beautiful presentation of an æsthetic idea the artist infinitely expands a given concept and, thus, encourages the free play of our mental faculties. This implies that art really lies beyond the realm of reason and that the beautiful is conceptually incomprehensible.
Every art necessarily presupposes rules by means of which a product, if it is to be artistic, is represented as possible. But in the case of the beautiful arts these rules cannot have a concept as their determining ground... Nature gives the rule to art by means of a special disposition of the artist. The innate mental disposition through which Nature gives the rule of art is genius.
The universal need for art is mans rational need to lift the inner and outer world into his spiritual consciousness as an object in which he recognizes again his own self.
...the artistic apprehension consitutes the middle between immediate sensuousness and ideal thought namely the sensuous is used merely as a means to proceed to the spiritual so that in art, sensuousness is spiritualized. Hegel also refers to the common doctrine of creative genius.
...the Idea as the beauty of art is [not the Idea as such, but] the Idea which is individual reality.
It is in this light that one should interpret Hegels statement that there are three basic art forms that have developed over time. Hegel presents the following dialectic:
But Nietzsche also claims that art can be properly understood only by means of physiology, namely in terms of rapture, that state of feeling in man that corresponds to the production and the enjoyment of the beautiful.
Heidegger would say that this conception of rapture is to be understood from the perspective, not of biology or psychology, but ontologically, in terms of what is referred to in Being and Time as Befindlichkeit, primordial mood; and rapture is defined in terms of intersubjectivity inasmuch as rapture implies the capacity to extend beyond oneself to all beings in a relation in which these beings are experienced as being more fully in being than would have been the case without this feeling.
...we can call beautiful whatever is in correspondence with what we demand of ourselves, and this demanding, in turn, is measured by what we take ourselves to be, what in truth we are able to do, and what we dare as our extreme challenge. The beautiful for Nietszche is thus what determines us, or behavior, our capabilities, to the degree that we can ascend beyond ourselves. This ascent occurs in rapture.
Nietszche does not oppose form to content, but rather the comportment of the artist to form is nothing but love of form for its own sake so that form... is the only true content of a work... the essence of art can most certainly not be sought in a theory that must appeal to some idea concerning a surplus of meaning which the work never makes present but merely refers to. [This notion is also central to Heideggers conception of the art work.]
The neo-Kantian term Erlebnis refers to the immediate experience of something which is though to be of lasting importance and is in need of interpretation and communication... If something is presented in an Erlebnis, its meaning is presented as one significant whole... [This meaning] can never be fully exhausted by what can be conceptually grasped as its content and by what one can thus say about it.
Note that this contradicts conceptions of art that prevailed in other ages. In fact, an important implication of this view is that once æsthetic consciousness has become independent, it is no longer permitted any criterion outside itself... By disregarding everything in which the art work is rooted, i.e. the world in which it originated andthe religious and cultural function which gave it its original significance, the work itself becomes visible as a pure work of art.
...art is an inherent element in the effort on the part of man to come to genuine self-understanding... art works reveal to us what and how beings are.
Each art work opens its own world... A world opens itself, the earth shelters and closes; both are present in the art work. Furthermore, the work does not refer to something else as a sign or a symbol does, but it presents itself in its own Being and invites the beholder to dwell and while with it.
The art work gives the earth (materials, color, sound, words) the chance to be present as what it really is. As long as the earth is used for something, it is not present as what it truly is.
The truth which the work of art reveals in this way is a finite truth... [it] does not consist in a meaning which lies in the open in an articulated form, but in a meaning which is fathomless and deep. In its essence it is the strife between world and earth, between rising and sheltering.
Note that in order for truth to come-to-pass in a work of art, conservation is as essential as invention. since the fact that truth is at work in the work of art implies the conserver who is startled and whiles in the openness that pervades the art work.
[In reading this, one has to bear in mind that the modes of being of both works of art and objects in Nature are not well accounted for in Being and Time; in particular, neither can be regarded as equipment.
One must also remember that Heideggers notion of truth is as something ontologically prior to correspondence with reality; in this context truth means aletheia, to be translated as non-concealment, the condition-of-possibility of correspondence, understanding or interpretation.
One might summarize by stating that a work of art is defined to be a man-made thing which embodies, in a specific and concrete case, the tension between interpretation (world) and materials (earth) so that the encounter with the work of art brings forth, in a concrete case, our ability to interpret the work, and at the same time its resistance to interpretation; and (crucially) this expresses the nature of self-interpretation, the potential for which is the defining characteristic of Dasein. See also this essay by Joseph Goguen for a broader context.]
Following Heidegger, Derrida actually states that it is not the truth of a relationship (of adequation or attribution) between such-and-such a product and such-and-such an owner... art as putting to work of truth is neither an imitation nor a description copying the real, nor a reproduction, whether it represents a singular thing or a general essence.
See also this essay.]
Second, use this theoretical framework to elaborate on Juliana Engbergs remark (on hearing that Russell Ferguson was becoming a curator at MoCA) that frequently writers who became curators had difficulty grasping the materiality of the work of art in their curatorial practice.
Third, as recent debates about beauty might oppose a naïve (neo-)Kantianism to alternative, more theory-based or political conceptions of art, it might be interesting to see where Heideggers views fit into these debates.
Fourth, given the probable fact that Heidegger was influenced by Taoism and Zen Buddhism, it would be interesting to explore the relationship between Heideggers conception of the work of art and Eastern approaches to æsthetics.
For a discussion of Heidegger, Dada and Surrealism, see this essay.]