I have a very easy measuring scale for determining what I consider art: "If I Can Do It, It's Not Art." This may not seem like a complex rule to live by; but when you consider it, it's rather profound. There are a lot of people who will pass off their work as art even though it is actually a bunch of junk.
I have been to a lot of art museums because - I actually like art. But I have witnessed a lot of pieces that are not art; they are elaborate hoaxes by conmen who rebrand their particular style of garbage construction as creative genius.
For example, when I went to the the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, Germany, one of the paintings hanging on the wall was a large canvas where the artist had painted a once-inch red dot in the center of the canvas. This was titled "Red Object #2," or maybe "Red Object #3..." I can't really remember. The point being that this painting was obviously part of a whole study the artist had done on... red objects. Of course I'm looking at this creation and I'm thinking, "I can do that; I could have done that with a crayon."
I've gone to the Seattle Art Museum several times, and I find it absolutely amazing what some people consider 'art'. Now don't get me wrong, there are some amazing pieces of artwork inside the Seattle Art Museum. But there was one canvas where the artist had simply painted an already white canvas with the color white. That's it - just white paint; nothing else. Once again I'm thinking, "I can do that."
At a different museum that I went to in Germany, the Lenbachhaus, it was very evident that an artist had stood at the end of several canvases that were lying on the ground and simply threw buckets of red paint at them. Once again, I can do that - it's not art.
I realize that the perception of art is subjective, and there is a lot of truth to the statement that "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder." But I always fall back on my personal standard that if it's something that I can do, it's not really art - it's just what people pass off as art. (For an example of how I think most modern artists come up with their ideas, you need to watch the movie The Wheeler Dealers with James Garner and see how the character Stanislas creates his artwork.)
Another perfect example of the ways in which we think about art can be typified by an experience that I had when I visited the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The museum was presenting an exhibition on impressionism, and I'm a big fan for many of the classical French impressionists: Renoir, Monet, etc. During my visit I entered one of the rooms, and there was an enormous painting by Gauguin hanging on the wall. I'm not a big fan of his artwork; however, I at least consider it art because I can't do what he does.
But as I analyzed this particular painting, I was thinking to myself, "I just don't get it; he only used four colors." I started to think about this painting based on my personal scale; I could have done this, so it can't be art. I (embarrassingly) spent several minutes studying this piece, and I tried hard to determine what it was about this painting that other people can see and I must be missing.
It's like the story of The Emperor's New Clothes; at some point you begin to worry what's wrong with you. If everybody else can see it and you can't, perhaps it's a character flaw. Maybe you're just not cultured enough. And this was the mindset that I had while I was wasting away my afternoon studying that single piece of art.
After I had been standing there for 5 to 10 minutes, a ten-year-old boy entered the room with his mother in tow. He took one look at the painting, laughed, and exclaimed loudly, "That's crap!", and then he walked off.
At that point I realized that I had been duped. I learned that I needed to stick to my instincts and measure every piece by my personal standard that if I can do it, it's not art. This philosophy actually helped me enjoy the rest of the day at the museum. I could walk into a room, I could look at a Renoir and say, "Now that's a piece of art." Or I could look at another Gauguin and say, "That's crap."