Is magic art?

Conjurer Paul Wilson sez, "Last Friday I uploaded the first of a series of short films and interviews featuring some of the world's finest magicians. These performers, inventors and thinkers include legendary professionals, modern masters and highly respected amateurs within the world of conjuring. The first episode addresses the question of magic as an art form. The experience of watching a magician ranges from the painful to the wonderful and everything in-between. At its best, magic is a truly powerful medium that can create unforgettable effects in the minds of an audience, from thousands of people in a theatre to a small group around a table. Future episodes will feature other aspects of magic and will hopefully offer fresh insight into our world."

Is magic an art?


  1. These conversations about “is this art?” or “can this be art?” are pretty baffling to me, really. The same question is often asked about video games. It seems like a medium of expression is only allowed to be unequivocally or uncontroversially “art” once it’s past a certain age, like it goes through some mysterious rite of passage when it reaches 200 and emerges from the woods a man, newspaper critic’s carcass across its shoulders.

    But I do love magic, so hopefully this series goes in a good direction :)

  2. “90% of science fiction — of anything — is crap.” — Arthur C. Clarke.

    Magic is certainly a craft. Whether a particular craftsman’s work is “art” or not is a matter of their intent and of the audience’s reaction.

  3. (Is music art? Not always; consider advertising jingles. And some music that is art isn’t good art, or — somewhat different thing — isn’t recognized as good art. Ditto acting, ditto dance, ditto other “performance arts”. Including magic. I don’t quite get why that should seem surprising, unless one has never considered the generalization before.)

    1.  ((And I’d argue that the occasional ad rises to the level of “art”. But see Clarke’s Law again.))

  4. having associated with more than my share of art and art history majors, i have been brow-beat into accepting:  “any creation whose purpose is to elicit a thoughtful or emotive introspection is ‘art'”.  therefore (good) magic, inspiring mostly “wow, cool, how did they do that?!” is art, selah.   (note:  a dental visit is not art because it wasn’t intended to have that emotional response …maybe.  “who’s doing the intending? and can the intention be secondary?”  -sigh-)

  5. Some actual magic might have made this video into art. But I have to be honest, I didn’t watch it all the way through, so maybe there was some in the last minute?

  6. It is so simple that I am surprised that this question is even being asked. OF COURSE magic is art. It is a highly specialised form of performance art, but still art. Arguing about this is not an argument about magic, but about art and how people argue about whether this or that picture or music is art or not.

  7. These “Is X art” questions are tough, because a lot of time we want to apply a value judgment to the idea of capital “A” Art. So if we say X is art then we are saying X is good or valuable. But you can be “Art” and still be bad, useless, uninspired. In this case it is tough, I think magic can be art, and other times it can simply be commerce. Even then much of the magic that I would qualify as Art would still be what I’d consider bad art, art that doesn’t have anything new to say or isn’t trying to communicate much of anything at all.    

    1.  Possible answers to “Is X art?”, for any X

       – Maybe.
       – but what truly is Art?
       – If I say yes, can we stop talking about it?
       – only if I personally had some experiences of deep personal significance with X, preferably when I was at a strongly impressionable age
       – you kids get off my lawn!

    1.  Now, David Copperfield never impressed me, but what’s up with that Dynamo?? That looks like he’s got straight-up Star Trek-tech…is it really that easy to put someone’s iphone into a bottle?? OR walk through glass?

  8. While everyone debates whether magic is art, I have no doubt that art is magic. I couldn’t imagine life without it.

  9. I wrote a little post on the subject a couple of years ago. If you’re interested in reading a lot of words, here’s a link:

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