Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917

A couple of months ago in this space, we said farewell to Arthur Danto, the philosopher and art critic, who died last fall at eighty-nine. Professor Danto had interests in philosophy that were distinct from his interest in art, but there was one area of overlap. It revolved around the question “What is art?” Professor Danto had many clever things to say about this question, particularly in his book The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1981). Why is it, he wondered, that one red square is just a red square while another, visually indistinguishable from the first, is Number 34, a contemporary abstract masterpiece in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art? Or imagine two additional red squar ...