Truth be told, there is no answer to this question. The reason being, the greatest ever can only be decided at the end of time; and by then we won’t be around to know the answer.

Rather, I wanted to showcase the various art forms as an infographic, for fun if nothing else. Before I get into that, I need to define art.

What is art?

There is no universal definition, so here’s my personal definition:

A self-contained tangible expression by a human, by design.

This means:

  • The art must be a physical thing – song, sculpture, video, etc.
  • It must be self-contained – there must be a boundary so it stands alone and can be identified as a separate entity.
  • It must be an expression by a human – Wind shaping a rock surface is not art, just landscape. Humans create art.
  • It must be by design – If I cut myself and blood spurts on the wall, it’s not art. If I do it on purpose, it could be labelled art. Remember, it’s an expression, not an accident. It must be voluntary.

What are the various art forms?

The art forms prevalent in human history can be divided into these broad categories:

  • Visual arts – painting, sculpture, etc.
  • Decorative arts – fashion, products, etc.
  • Performing arts – music, film and video, theater, etc.
  • Literature – stories, poems, essays, etc.

As you can imagine, humans have found very creative ways to express something. Ultimately, art is nothing but an effort to communicate, when other forms of communication prove inadequate. After a while, processes become a tradition, and we are then spoilt for choice among the various art forms available as a mode to expression.

Which is the greatest art form?

In this infographic I’ll try to trace every major art form I can think of. I won’t cover specific forms. E.g., I’ve used ‘Painting’ to denote cave painting, oil painting, make-up, etc.

What makes any art form the ‘greatest’? Nothing really. For the purposes of this infographic, though, I’ll assume the art form that encompasses every possible mode of expression is the most complex, and has the greatest potential to convey anything a human might want to convey.

Here it is (click to enlarge):

greatest art form

Notes:

  • The boxes in black are the cause of each art form, either natural, man-made or unexplained.
  • Orange boxes are the natural progressions from the black box, to each subsequent iteration.
  • Dark orange boxes are those art forms that combine two separate art forms.
  • The colored art forms – painting, theater, animation and film/video are complex art forms, borrowing from more than three art forms at least.
  • Light grey arrow lines are just long-distance lines, lightened for easier visibility.
  • The infographic is in the A3 size, made for printing at 300 ppi.

Is virtual reality the next great art form?

Who knows? One thing we know that has borne out – if an art form becomes popular, it will also become democratic.

Pigments and books were expensive to produce, and were a luxury only afforded to the higher classes of society. Today, learning and drawing is in anyone’s hands. Music was the domain of a few great composers. Today, anybody can produce and distribute music. We have reached the age where anybody can take photographs and even make great movies.

Virtual reality is the closest thing to reality. The closest we’ll get to touching and feeling the actual experience. It’s like walking through a war zone without any chance of getting shot – not that it’ll be a great experience anyway.

What do you think? Which is the greatest art form according to you and why?

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