How to define what is a "work of art"?


"One does not find an exact definition of the work of art in the dictionaries" says Me Aude Ceysson. Let us follow her analysis. 

This does not mean that it does not exist! From a historical point of view, artists have created new works and this notion has evolved in the collective imagination. However, the legislative texts frame and limit the fields of interpretation.

This is an important question for the drafting of our appraisals and inventories of movable property.

Work and Art, two distinct notions

From the online site Wikipedia, " A work of art, or art object, is an artistic or aesthetic object or creation. It is usually an item made by an artist. A masterpiece was formerly the proof of excellence that a journeyman had to present to be promoted to mastery in his guild "
But this definition is very limiting.

To clarify, our beloved general tax code specifies this definition in the tax framework.

We will review in detail whatarticle 98 A of the general tax code says, which defines "as works of art the following achievements".

Seven categories of works of art defined in the General Tax Code

  1. At the beginning, we learn that "paintings, collages and similar tableaus, paintings and drawings, entirely executed by hand by the artist, excluding drawings of architects of engineers (...) workshop funds or similar uses" are works of art.
  2. Secondly, " original engravings, prints and lithographs must be printed in limited numbers (...) from one or more plates entirely executed by the artist's hand (...)".
  3. In the third point, items of jewelry, goldsmithing and jewelry are not included in this analysis.
    This point addresses the issue of sculptures " of any material.As long as the productions are entirely executed by the artist, and that their "castings (are) limited to 8 copies. These works are controlledby the artist or his beneficiaries". In addition, three distinct designations exist for any work of art obtained by foundry. It is an "original", "multiple", or "unique" work. This choice depends on the artist. Determined before the realization of the first piece, it is irrevocable.


Let's look at the definition of the word "original" for sculptures. It is any work of art in metal alloy up to 12 copies.

The four "artist's proofs" are numbered in Roman numerals. The following ones are numbered with Arabic numerals. Let's take an example: 1/8. The artist's proofs are numbered EA I/V, EA II/IV, EA III/IV, EA IV/IV and the other 8 1/8, 2/8 etc.

Other markings such as O or HC are not allowed. If it is decided to make less than 12 prints, this choice of the number of prints is irrevocably determined before casting. This number cannot be exceeded.

Now let's see what the word "multiple" means without an example. It means that each coin has a number from 1/100 to 100/100. This number sometimes goes further.
Also, the single or PU piece is not duplicated. It is not an artist's proof.

Let's go further into this legislation

Let's follow the next four paragraphs which specify the categories of works of art.

The fourth paragraph deals with tapestries, wall textiles. The original works of art are limited to "eight copies of each of them". These works correspond to the original cartoons provided by the artist.
The fifth paragraph concerns ceramics and earthenware. These works of art represent "unique copies of ceramics entirely executed by the artist and signed by him".

In the sixth paragraph, "enamels on copper, entirely executed by hand, within the limit of eight numbered copies and bearing the signature of the artist or the art workshop, with the exception of articles of jewelry, goldsmith's and silversmith's work

In the last and 7th point, the "photographs taken by the artist, drawn by him or under his control". The print run is limited to 30 copies, all signed and numbered, all formats and media combined.
In order to give you the best advice, we use this precise terminology in our inventories.