However, as the UPS truck usually does not arrive until mid-afternoon, I'll have to make do with the one I have. And while the temptation might be great to use it to fill in the hole that our Resident Contrarian has climbed into, I'll use it instead to clear away a little of the crapulent debris that has emerged from that hole.
To wit, the question, re: art rising to the level of Art, to which the answer is so blatantly obvious that there is the temptation to treat it as either facetious or rhetorical but, nevertheless, here goes ...
Paul asked ... "when, exactly, is this magic level reached? And who decides when it's reached? Is it you? Or is there a group of ELITE ART Arbiters out there who meet monthly and vote on it?"
And, while we're at it, lets throw in his related question re: the chosen few:
Who gets to choose? More importantly, who gets to say that they have been chosen? How does one find out that they are among the ELITE?"
The answer is both obvious and simple - over time there have always been "deciders" that have ranged from the Medici and the Vatican (amongst other elites) during the age of Renaissance Art to the museum curators and gallery directors (and to some extent, collectors) of the modern era.
And, like it or not, in the field of human endeavor that has come to be called Fine Art (as opposed to Decorative Art), the process of selection has never been a democratic / populist one. Quite to the contrary, the deciders have almost always been from a class of elites. The selection process has never been a perfect one. The deciders have missed some, deliberately overlooked others, and picked some genuine stinkers, but, the Great Decider, aka, Time, most often corrects those mistakes.
A perfect and rather obvious example of a decider / elitist in the Photography Division of Art is Alfred Stieglitz. Is there any question that, through his life-long commitment to the Arts and photography in particular, "as a great photographer, as a discoverer and promoter of photographers and of artists in other media, and as a publisher, patron, and collector – he had a greater impact on American art than any other person has had." (from Richard Whelan ~ Stieglitz on Photography: His Selected Essays and Notes)
But, hell, Stieglitz is dead and gone. If anyone in the Rochester, NY area needs a somewhat more living / breathing / in-the-flesh example of "who decides", they can just wander on over to the George Eastman House, the Memorial Art Gallery, or the Visual Studies Workshop and ask to speak to one of the curators - anyone of whom decides, on a regular basis, who and what is in or out.
Or, if that proves to be too elitist for them, on a more proletariat / populist level, they could head over to a local Borders bookstore to see if they display local art in their coffee shop - the one in my area does. I guarantee that they will have a decider regarding what's in and what's out as well.