Types of art topics for your term paper

Artistic expression covers many forms, not just paintings and sculpture.

Banksy’s art piece “Rage, Flower Thrower” depicts a protester throwing a bouquet of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail. (Credit: BBC)

Banksy’s art piece “Rage, Flower Thrower” depicts a protester throwing a bouquet of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail. (Credit: BBC)

For your next term paper, consider writing about some of the lesser known various types of art: graffiti art by famous graffiti artists like Banksy, Japanese art including ukiyo-e and netsuke, and street photography such as the works depicted in the Vivian Maier documentary.

Graffiti art

You could write your term paper on the ways urban art has grown in the past decade or so. Actually, scratching or painting a picture on a wall has been around since the Paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings in France. But modern graffiti art with spray paint has moved beyond gang-related warnings to true forms of art. Graffiti usually reflects the cultural aspirations or issues of the community in which it’s drawn. Modern graffiti has traversed gangs, hip hop culture, urban renewal, gaming culture, and social commentary. While some graffiti is painted over by city officials, other communities encourage people to contribute to a wall specifically set aside for artistic expression.

A famous British graffiti artist is known by his pseudonym, Banksy. A political activist and filmmaker, Banksy stencils large provocative and sometimes controversial pieces in public places at night. Time magazine named him in their list of the world’s 100 most influential people of 2010. Banksy has painted in cities around the world, including London, Los Angeles, New York, Gaza City, Barcelona, and Paris. In recent years, he has begun selling his pieces for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the article, “The Story Behind Banksy” in Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013, author Will Ellsworth-Jones wrote about the “‘Banksy effect’—the artist’s astounding success in bringing urban, outsider art into the cultural, and increasingly profitable, mainstream.”

Street photography of Vivian Maier

Another type of art that would make a good research paper topic is street photography. A recent discovery of the work by prolific street photographer Vivian Maier propelled the unknown artist into the world. The 2013 documentary Finding Vivian Maier chronicles John Maloof’s discovery of thousands of exceptional photographs by eccentric French-American nanny Maier who took portraits of passersby on the streets of Chicago and France for nearly half a century. In “Unraveling the Mystery of Vivian Maier, One of America’s Great Street Photographers,” by Kristin Hohenadel in Slate, March 24, 2014, filmmaker Maloof discussed the mystery surrounding Maier: “Who is she, why is she taking all these pictures, what compelled her to take them, and why she didn’t show the work. I didn’t know what I was looking for, I just wanted to find out more about her, and each person [I interviewed] had a different take.”

Japanese art market

You could also write a term paper on the volatile art market. For example, Japanese art has been a favorite of many art collectors for decades, however, the economic decline in Japan in the 1990s and the worldwide economic downturn beginning in 2008 have turned some collectors away from Japanese art favorites, such as ukiyo-e (Pictures of the Floating World woodblock prints), netsuke (small carvings), painted screens, and lacquerware to more contemporary tastes as well as for Chinese art, due to China’s current economic boom.

Nevertheless, the Japanese art market is solid, according to Sebastian Izzard, a New York art dealer. In “Classical Japanese Art Hangs on; Current Tastes for Contemporary Works Overshadow Solid Market,” in International New York Times, November 3, 2015, Scott Reyburn wrote: “Another factor that has kept a lid on the value of classical Japanese art, at least in the West, has been a preference for later, Meiji-period objects exported in shiploads to satisfy foreigners’ taste for ‘Japanisme.’”

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Types of Art. 

What other varieties of art would make good research paper topics?

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