Can I say: "The art is not a common thing" meaning "not for everyone", "not everyone can truly understand it"?
CLARIFICATION: Not everyone can understand what message some painting or installation is carrying. Not everyone understand why something is recognized as a masterpiece. I'm using "The art" in the widest meaning.

  • I'd caution against using "common" in this context: I think it has connotations of class (i.e. common working man vs aristocracy) that leap out when discussing art, especially. Unless that's what you're aiming for? Do you mean the art is not interpretable by everyone? – Pam Sep 12 at 10:16
  • I would clarify exactly what you mean. That piece of art is not common, that style of art is not common. As it stands, art on its own is ambiguous. That aside, common does not mean for everyone or understood. It only means seen often. So, not common means rare. – Jason Bassford Sep 12 at 16:18
  • 1
    You certainly may use it that way. It likely will be misunderstood, however. – Hot Licks Sep 14 at 11:57
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Out of context, the 'art' in your sentence is ambiguous.

It could be being used in its mass-noun sense:

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

or to denote an expertise:

A skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.

In either sense, the 'art' is not an object, action, or event which can naturally be referred to as a 'thing'.

Supposing we remove the reference, leaving us with: "The art is not common". That sentence (without context) is vague to the point of being meaningless - what aspect of the art is unusual, or not shared?

So it's much better to specify. For example:

  • "The art is not commonly understood"
  • "The art is not commonly appreciated"

As @Pam's comment to your question remarks, it may be better to avoid the nuance of 'common' altogether:

  • "The art is not widely ...."
  • I promise I would take no offence at all at an explanation of the downvote .. :) – Robin Betts Sep 12 at 19:51

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