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June 4, 2013 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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How to Appreciate Art

Art has the tendency to be standoffish and elitist, when it should really be the complete opposite. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge to enjoy it—this quick guide aims to brush away its pretensions and misconceptions, and make art genuinely enjoyable.

1. Don’t try to understand it.

This is probably the most common mistake one makes in a gallery. Modern art especially is full of queer, strange things, and it’s easy to scoff at the pointlessness of it all. As Keith Haring puts it:

“The viewer should be able to look at art and respond to it without wondering if he “understands” it.

It does not aim to be understood! Who “understands” any art?

If art is that easily labelled, then it is only existing for those who “understand” it and all the others are ignorant of it.

To define any art is to destroy the purpose of it.”

So the purpose of art is that there isn’t much of one. Clear-cut meanings and intricate backstories are completely irrelevant here. Art should be thought of as something that serves no other purpose but to entice a feeling from the viewer—any feeling at all.

2. Art is your friend.

In ‘California Dreamin’, the Mamas and the Papas sing about stepping into a church and pretending to pray to get out of the cold weather. Instead of a church, why not step into an art gallery the next time it’s raining? Art galleries are able to provide viewers with an environment as conducive to self-reflection as that of a church, Buddhist monastery, or mountain top. In the hushed rooms of a gallery, paintings and sculptures are waiting for you to find solace in them. As the mind wanders freely over brushstrokes and as it tries to find recognition among some ambiguously shaped piece of clay, the entire process is strangely soothing. Whether it be a certain expression held by some painted figure, or the resemblance a shade of canvas might have to an ex-lover’s shirt, it is surprising how personal art can coincidentally be.

3. Don’t take any of it seriously!

There are two misconceptions to art that make it less accessible to people—one, that to enjoy ‘finer’ art we need to know about a stuffy and long art history, and two, that the new stuff that artists are churning out is incomprehensibly abstract to the degree of pointlessness. These things are all completely irrelevant; names, dates and painting techniques are not prerequisites, nor is the ‘insight’ to be able to find depth in a minimalist piece.

Instead, one should look at art without wondering about any of this at all, not what it means, who did it, or where it’s from, but instead let us feel—why and how is an inanimate object of decoration able to make one feel anything at all? And to think—there are beautiful buildings in every city of the world devoted to the display and preservation of these pieces that do nothing more than to let us feel!

So go look at some art, visit a gallery, google ‘art’ and print out the favourite thing you find. Art has been here for us since the first cave painting, and continues as a rare quaintness among the human race, deserving of our appreciation.

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