What is the opposite of commercial in the context of writing about art? For example:

The artist created both commercial and _________ art.

  • 2
    What about public art? – tchrist Jul 17 '13 at 13:24
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    Not all words can have a one-to-one antonym. Commercial art is one a member of a class of disciplines. For more on this see Art on wiki at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art – Kris Jul 19 '13 at 6:06
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    Also, art that is not commercial may not have a label because when one uses 'art' one might usually think that it is the non-commercial kind (the Mona Lisa say). – Mitch Jul 20 '13 at 16:22
  • See this answer for how many ways opposite can go. – Mitch Jul 20 '13 at 16:29

(Updated) The obvious counterparts would seem to be High Art:

Much of high culture consists of the appreciation of what is sometimes called "High Art". This term ... besides literature includes music, visual arts (especially painting), and traditional forms of the performing arts (including some cinema). The decorative arts would not generally be considered High Art.

The cultural products most often regarded as forming part of high culture are most likely to have been produced during periods of High civilization, for which a large, sophisticated and wealthy urban-based society provides a coherent and conscious aesthetic framework, and a large-scale milieu of training, and, for the visual arts, sourcing materials and financing work. Such an environment enables artists, as near as possible, to realize their creative potential with as few as possible practical and technical constraints.

- or Fine Art:

Fine art, from the 17th century on, has meant art forms developed primarily for aesthetics, distinguishing them from applied arts that also have to serve some practical function. Historically, the five main fine arts were painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry, with minor arts including theater and dance. Today, the fine arts commonly include additional forms, including film, photography, conceptual art, and printmaking. However, in some institutes of learning or in museums, fine art and frequently the term fine arts (pl.) as well, are associated exclusively with visual art forms.

One definition of fine art is "a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic and intellectual purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture." In that sense, there are conceptual differences between the Fine Arts and the Applied Arts. As originally conceived, and as understood for much of the modern era, the perception of aesthetic qualities required a refined judgement usually referred to as having good taste, which differentiated fine art from popular art and entertainment. However in the Postmodern era, the value of good taste is disappearing, to the point that having bad taste has become synonymous with being avant-garde.

The word "fine" does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline.

As implict in the latter article, there seems to be significant overlap between the two terms:

...today there is an escalation of media in which high art is more recognized to occur.

- although Google Ngrams appears to show that the latter term is, in fact, more frequently used in the English corpus. (Drilling down to British English shows a smaller gap between the two.)

  • I was about to suggest fine art but after checking with wikipedia it seems high art is the more modern and, perhaps, preferred version nowadays. – Mari-Lou A Jul 17 '13 at 10:03
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    @Mari-LouA I would understand fine art, but have never heard of high art. – TrevorD Jul 17 '13 at 12:20
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    @TrevorD That's because we're from an older and far wiser generation. :-) – Mari-Lou A Jul 17 '13 at 12:26
  • @Mari-LouA: It's interesting that there are separate entries for fine and high art on wikipedia - there seems to be quite a bit of overlap, though. I wonder whether it would be worth offering as an alternative answer...? – user11752 Jul 17 '13 at 12:39
  • Add a footnote to your original answer. I really don't think there are any other alternatives. – Mari-Lou A Jul 17 '13 at 12:41

I believe without further context and given the wide scope and diverse nature of the answer the only short answer is other art.

Commercial art may be in contrast to the type, the sales channel, the publication means or frequency, the quality, marketability, artistic value, style or some other criteria. To cover all these we have to just say what it was NOT and that can only be referred to as other than commercial.



com•mer•cial/ adjective 3. prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on salability, profit, or success: a commercial product; His attitude toward the theater is very commercial.

in•dus•tri•al/adjective 1. of, pertaining to, of the nature of, or resulting from industry: industrial production; industrial waste.

When I think commercial its profit based, high art or fine art are in my mind created to bring profit to the artist or creator. On the converse Industrial items are through of as grungy and utilitarian.

  • 1
    I'm no art expert, but I think industrial would be considered to be a style-descriptor and orthogonal to the question; I can imagine commercial or non-commercial 'industrial art'. (In other contexts, industrial would be an alternative to commercial. Is 'residential art' commercial? I'd say 'also an orthogonal concept'.) – hunter2 Jul 18 '13 at 10:36

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