One way to respond to this question is to propose that these two practices cannot be compared as such. This is seemingly to agree with Mr. Arthur Lubow’s premises when he recently asserted that the MoMA’s curators "no longer believe that art progresses like science."
The sciences study natural objects, such as rocks, the stars, the workings of organisms, etc. The subject of the humanities is cultural objects, artifacts of cultural practices. An artwork is this second sort of object. And there was certainly a time, as Mr. Lubow points out, when art historians mistook their subjects for natural ones, employing genealogical models to explain the morphological differences over time among artworks. To be sure, art historians were not alone in this fallacy. The late critic Paul de Man pointed out as much at work in the writings of the American New Critics.
Thus, it would seem that your question asks us to evaluate two incompatible enterprises. In order to respond more productively, we must find common ground between what we understand as art and science. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to explore here whether the methods employed by scientists share the fallacies that have plagued the humanities. But the biologist D’arcy Thompson’s postulated evolutionary paths for many species based on his Cartesian transformations come to mind. Neither do we have the space to delve into how the arts affect the course of science. However, it seems valuable to underline that your question depends not only on how we might understand the two terms to be defined, but also upon some agreement as to how to measure their relative value. In other words, by what set of criteria could we measure whether or not science has surpassed art, or vice versa?
One would imagine that Alfred H. Barr was aware of the significantly greater value his society accorded to scientific knowledge than to the significances of artworks. To be more blunt, it is a commonplace that scientific research produces the commodity known as “knowledge”; it is less clear that art practice is recognized as producing knowledge, at least of comparable value. Note, for example, the disparity between employment opportunities open to newly graduated science and art students.
Thus, it would seem that, utilizing this standard of instrumental knowledge, science has indeed surpassed art. But rather than mounting here a defense of the instrumentality of art—we know too well the degree to which the arts actually contribute to the design of guided missiles and beam weapons—I choose to ask whether art (or artists) can produce knowledge that can challenge not only the products of science but also those of ideology.
— Sawad Brooks, Artist/Designer, New York