The visual arts are a class of art forms, including painting, sculpture, photography, and others, that focus on the creation of artworks which are primarily visual in nature. The visual arts are distinguished from the performing arts, language arts, culinary arts, and other such classes of artwork. The definition is not strict, and many artistic disciplines involve aspects of the visual arts as well other types.
In Britain until recently the fine arts?painting, sculpture, printmaking, et cetera?were seen as distinct from craft disciplines such as applied art, design, textiles, and the various metalworking disciplines such as blacksmithing and jewelry. This distinction arose from the work of a group of artists led by William Morris known as the Arts and Crafts Movement whose political aim was to value vernacular art forms as much as high forms. The movement was at odds with modernists' art club who sought to withhold the high arts from the masses by keeping them esoteric.
The result of the conflict between the two groups was to politicize the products of what we now know as visual artists. British art schools made a clear distinction between the fine arts (a term that hints at their supposed superiority) and the crafts in such a way that a craftsperson could not be considered a practitioner of high art. Although this is no longer the case, the residue of inequality between the crafts or applied arts and the so-called fine arts still exists in some quarters. In Britain the term "visual art" is suitably independent of these older, loaded concepts and as such is the preferred term for work across all the disciplines in question.
A similar stigma exists in the US, where "arts and crafts" has a very particular meaning, denoting the sort of artwork first taught in elementary school and also (later in life) a variety of kitsch, household artwork. Most craftspeople are still seen as practicing something other than "fine art" among the traditional art school set, but, of course, can produce "high art", in any medium.
Installation art and body art are the most popular and provocative modern categories within the Visual Art concept.Installation art is visual art that, through the use of sculptural materials and other media, seeks to modify the way we experience a particular space. Installation art is not necessarily confined to gallery spaces and can refer to any material intervention in everyday public or private spaces.
It is a genre of Western contemporary art. It came to prominence in the 1970s. Materials used in contemporary installation art range from everyday and natural materials (such as soap or even yoghurt) to new media such as video, sound, performance, computers and the internet. Some installations are site-specific in that they are designed to only exist in the space for which they were created.
Body art is visual art made on, with, or consisting of, the human body. The most common forms of body art are tattoos and body piercings, but other types include scarification, branding, scalpelling, shaping (for example tight-lacing of corsets), and body painting.
More extreme body art can involve things such as mutilation or pushing the body to its physical limits. For example, one of Marina Abramovic's works involved dancing until she collapsed from exhaustion, while one of Dennis Oppenheim's better known works saw him lying in the sunlight with a book on his chest, until his skin, excluding that covered by the book, was badly sunburned. It can even consist of the arrangement and dissection of preserved bodies in an artistic fashion, as in the case of the plastinated bodies used in the traveling Body Worlds exhibit. In Western art, body art appears to be a sub-category of performance art, in which artists use or abuse their own body to make their particular statements.