Art serves many different functions, which are typically divided into personal, physical and social functions, explains About.com. Art benefits individuals and groups in a variety of different ways depending on the interplay between the individuals and the art and the type of artwork itself. Understanding this context is an important part of developing a discussion of the function of artwork in a society.
Some art has a direct and physical function. For example, some groups early in human history decorated and designed their weapons and tools artistically. Because the artwork is imposed directly onto a physical object with a specific function, these pieces of art have physical functions. Another form of artwork with a physical function is the architecture and design of buildings and other structures.
Social functions are some of the most common functions of art. These types of artwork are intended to convey some sort of message, often of a religious or political nature. Satire is another common form of socially functional art.
Personal functions are difficult to characterize. Because art can mean different things to different people based on their personal life history and experiences, these personal functions vary greatly. Two different people may receive vastly different personal functions from the same piece of artwork.