It used to be that anything called “Art” had certain meaning attached to it. Art was assumed to be beautiful, intricate, expensive. . . crafted with care by a master. Sometimes it told a story, or marked a special day or event.
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Art was universally revered, instantly recognized, and generally approached with awe, while today it is looked at much differently.
Viewers generally respond to works of art in one of the three following ways:
Some people like a particular work simply because it pleases them. The colors, the shapes, the good composition—all of it appeals to their senses. Or, they might enjoy a painting or sculpture because it’s worth a lot of money. They can feel the importance, the history of it, in the price tag or estimated value.
And of course, an individual may like a work of art because a friend or expert has told them it’s good, and they just accept it.
People dislike art for the opposite reasons: It just doesn’t look nice; it’s not worth very much money; or someone has already told them that it’s not very good. In addition, it’s very easy to compare works of art, and dislike one based on your feelings for the piece hanging on the wall right next to it.
Possibly the easiest reaction to have, disinterest can be caused by confusion when looking at the work, or the viewer deciding that it doesn’t fit their idea of art and discounting it. It can also come from a decision against making the effort needed to understand the artwork, or just the fact that the piece doesn’t capture their attention.
Unfortunately, with art being as commonplace as it is, many artists and art experts are looking more and more for uniqueness in art above anything else. The art community tends to move from artist to artist, always searching for the cutting edge, the most daring, the strangest, even the obscene or shocking.
And the non-artists? They’re left in the dust unsure of why a particular work is special, and sometimes even lose that curiosity and awe they once felt when entering a gallery. They end up looking at price tags more than at the art itself and even begin to feel as though good art is just too deep and esoteric for their simple understanding.
What we as art patrons need to realize, however, is that we’re just as qualified to judge whether art is good or bad as any art critic. There’s no reason to sit back and nod appreciatively of a piece of trash hung in a gallery if in our heart we’ve already judged it to be a sham.
I don’t think anyone should ever have to fake interest or feel out of place in an art gallery. By following some simple steps this Friday, you should be able to come to your own conclusion about why a particular work is good or not.
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