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A Great Person who specializes in culture.
The unit is expended after performing any of these actions.
Great Artists are the culture boosters of the empire. Their special tile improvement produces 6 Culture in a tile - a very solid bonus. Great Artists can also start Golden Ages, which last 8 turns by default. Great Artists are expended when used in either of these ways, so consider what bonus will benefit you more. If you seek a long-term culture benefit, have the Great Artist create a Landmark. If you require the benefits of a Golden Age, use the Artist to start one.
You earn Great Artists by earning Great Person Points. These Great Person Points eventually create a Great Artist, the pool empties and the pool size increases, meaning that more points are needed to earn each successive Great Artist.
Great Artists also have an ability called "Culture Bomb," which is disabled and replaced by the Great General's "Construct Citadel" in Gods & Kings. This ability makes the tile the Artist is standing on and all adjacent tiles part of your territory, whether they're yours or not. This comes in handy when you want/need a nearby resource that you haven't expanded onto or is occupied by another empire or city-state. However, it must be used within one tile of your main empire, and it does have political repercussions. Culture bombing also has a 9-turn cooldown, meaning that you must wait at least nine turns after using a Culture Bomb with one Great Artist before you can use another one.
In the Brave New World expansion, Great Artists' functions change in accordance with the new cultural system. First, they are now created from specialists that may be placed only in the Artists' Guild. They can still start a Golden Age (for 8 turns), but their more permanent boost ability has been changed. Instead of building a Landmark, they now have an ability to Create a Great Work of Art, which may then be placed within an appropriate building (like your Palace, Museums, or Cathedrals) for a permanent Tourism and Culture boost.
- Earning a free GP of your choice (with the Mayan Long Count, Liberty finisher, Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc.)
- Adopting Artistic Genius (in the Aesthetics tree)
- Building the Uffizi
- Building the Louvre
"Great Artists" are the visionaries of civilization. They interpret the world, bringing beauty, brilliance, form and color where none may have been found before. They carve the statues, paint the pictures, take the photos and make the films that define our humanity. Often their work surpasses its time and place, enlightening and elevating a people, making a civilization far greater than its material possessions and power.