Lies We Tell Ourselves About Art
#1 – I don’t know anything about art.
Just about everyone without an art history or fine arts degree will confide that they really don’t know anything about art. In fact, it is almost the first thing that people say to me when they hear that I am in the art business. It is offered by way of advance apology in case they make a ‘mistake’ in liking a piece of art or appear foolish in front of those with perceived superior knowledge. Information on art history, schools of style and techniques are academic and add to our knowledge, but not necessarily to our pleasure or direct experience of a work.
Being a human being makes everyone know something about art. Art is communication that is of the heart or gut – not the head. It’s as simple as that. You will like a work or not. A painting will raise you up in euphoria; a sculpture might stop you in your tracks for a moment of reverence. On the other hand, it might annoy or challenge you or not even affect you at all. You won’t have time to think about the work. You will just know it by your response.
Confidence in our own ability to choose is challenged by the marketed art world where name and price are perceived criteria of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is resoundingly not the case. Sometimes it applies and sometimes it doesn’t. If you want to truly enjoy a work of art – especially in your own home – it must satisfy you on a most personal level. It must be welcome in your home – not merely placed there.
A quality piece of art is an investment in ourselves. It becomes an extension of our personal expression in our home. Our choices speak about who we are and how we feel. A collection will include the many facets of our personality and those of our loved ones. There are no rules for a collection. Modern blends with antique and watercolour with oils or acrylics – just like a family reunion where all are individuals, there will be a theme running through.
When you decide to buy, you can shore up your confidence in the art piece’s longterm pleasure and retained value by investigating the artist. A most complete and satisfying work will balance talent, skill, inspiration and passion. This comes from training, experience and continued practice. Look to see where the artist trained, has shown, and what professional art societies they belong to. A simple check will back up your first emotional response with rationale.
Trust your first uncensored response and you will soon give yourself permission to gaze at a work of art and let it work on you. Most artists will agree that a work is a two way communication. It is an offering to be received. When you are drawn to a certain work, that communication has begun. And depending on the depth of that communication, the relationship will continue to unfold over time.
Whether you are a collector, love to gallery hop or cruise national museums of art, your experience and pleasure will be singular and intuitive. Enjoy your first response and trust your own feelings. Accept that you already know the most important thing there is to know about art.