Focusing on the connections between the artwork and its internal and external network, the article presents four different approaches to the sociology of art developed by Lyotard, Bourdieu, Luhmann, and Hennion and Latour. While Lyotard, from a phiosophical point of view, emphasizes the transcendence of the artwork in relation to its network, for Bourdieu the work of art is part of a network and the ‘social genesis’ grounds the artwork as an artwork. In contrast to Bourdieu, Luhmann conceives of art as an autopoietic system and the artwork as a communicative artefact. Yet, in this, the materiality of the artwork disappears in communication, which is why Hennion and Latour’s approach to the world of art as heterogeneous networks of human and non-human mediators is significant. ‘Thinking with’ these different approaches, the article produces three main results. First, Bourdieu’s and Luhmann’s otherwise very different sociologies significantly parallel each other regarding arts and modernity. Second, the question of the artwork radically unravels the difficult relationship between social theory and material objects. In this respect most contemporary social theories (e.g. Bourdieu’s and Luhmann’s) remain essentially modernist. Third, a focus on artworks demonstrates that the conceptual vocabulary of social theory and the sociology of art must be reconsidered. Furthermore, the article demonstrates the discovery of a ‘lucid illusio’ and specifies a Spinozist moment in Bourdieu’s social theory.