The history of art is the history of any activity or product made by humans in a visual form for aesthetical or communicative purposes, expressing ideas, emotions or, in general, a worldview. Over time visual art has been classified in diverse ways, from the medieval distinction between liberal arts and mechanical arts, to the modern distinction between fine arts and applied arts, or to the many contemporary definitions, which define art as a manifestation of human creativity. The subsequent expansion of the list ofprincipal arts in the 20th century reached to nine: architecture, dance, sculpture, music, painting, poetry (described broadly as a form of literature with aesthetic purpose or function, which also includes the distinct genres of theatre and narrative), film,photography and graphic arts. In addition to the old forms of artistic expression such as fashion and gastronomy, new modes of expression are being considered as arts such as video, computer art, performance, advertising, animation, television andvideogames.
The history of art is a multidisciplinary branch of the arts and sciences, seeking an objective examination of art throughout time, classifying cultures, establishing periodizations, and observing the distinctive and influential characteristics of art. The study of the history of art was initially developed during the Renaissance, with its limited scope being the artistic production of Western civilization. However, as time has passed, it has imposed a broader view of artistic history, seeking a comprehensive overview of all the civilizations and analysis of their artistic production in terms of their own cultural values (cultural relativism), and not just western art history.
Today, art enjoys a wide network of study, dissemination and preservation of all the artistic legacy of mankind throughout history. The 20th century has seen the proliferation of institutions, foundations, art museums and galleries, in both the public and private sectors, dedicated to the analysis and cataloging of works of art as well as exhibitions aimed at a mainstream audience. The rise ofmedia has been crucial in improving the study and dissemination of art. International events and exhibitions like the Whitney Biennialand biennales of Venice and São Paulo or the Documenta of Kassel have helped the development of new styles and trends. Prizes such as the Turner of the Tate Gallery, the Wolf Prize in Arts, the Pritzker Prize of architecture, the Pulitzer of photography and theOscar of cinema also promote the best creative work on an international level. Institutions like UNESCO, with the establishment of the World Heritage Site lists, also help the conservation of the major monuments of the planet.