“I don’t get it.”
Anyone who has visited an art museum, attended a music concert, or watched a performance piece has probably uttered these words at one point or another. After spending minutes or even hours trying (and failing) to appreciate it, it can be incredibly frustrating to hear critics rave about something that just looks like splotches of color or sounds like noise.
Regardless of whether you are active in the arts, or a patron and supporter, it’s important that you realize that not every piece of art is going to be enjoyable for you. Furthermore, not every piece of art will live up to its hype even if you do enjoy it. The individual experience attached to art is its greatest strength and simultaneously its greatest weakness. Everyone experiences a work of art differently, which means some will love what others hate.
Truly, “getting” art isn’t about seeing what others see, it’s about taking your own personal experiences and seeing where a particular work of art connects with you on an emotional level. To increase the chances that you “get” art, take a look at the tips below.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Everyone starts off with a limited knowledge set. Coming into the world of art is no different. No one expects you to walk into a museum or concert hall and know everything there is to know about what’s going on. Do your best to do a bit of research beforehand so you’re not completely taken by surprise. At the event, feel free to talk to those around you to get their thoughts. One of the best parts of the experience is learning about others and what they’re taking from the art.
You don’t need to like everything (or anything for that matter).
A lot of famous artists may not appeal to you. That’s ok. Whether it’s a musician’s tour de force, or a well-regarded piece of literature, if you don’t like it, you’re not a terrible human being. While you may grow to appreciate this work in time, that comes from exposure to pieces that you do in fact enjoy. If you don’t enjoy art, there’s no chance you’ll continue to explore it further.
Support the artists you enjoy.
In the same vein, if your favorite artist is the person you walk past in the subway station, playing their violin for tips, don’t be ashamed to support them. No one is checking your artist credentials (PS those don’t exist) to make sure that you’re working your way up to bid at Christie’s Auction House for a Picasso. If you like the way art speaks to you, then that’s what you enjoy.
It also helps to remember, that many of the most well-regarded artists started out working for pennies, and some even died poor as their art wasn’t appreciated until years after their death. So supporting a working artist now could be what they need to break into the mainstream.
Art is a personal connection between the artist and viewer. Just like any other relationship, sometimes there’s a spark, other times it’s not meant to be. Be true to what you like, and how it makes you feel, even if no one else sees it the same way.