About 11 months ago, Vice contributor, Glen Coco wrote a post entitled, I'm Sick Of Pretending: I Don't "Get" Art.
This article has been liked 110,000 times (was approximately 40k just 24 hours ago), tweeted over 2,200 times, and has over 700 comments. While this post is nearly a year old, we’ve recently seen it pop up all over Facebook and Twitter with a new buzz, so we thought that we would address it.
Well here’s the truth; you don’t need to “get” everything that’s made by artists, nor do you have to even like it, or think it’s art. The artists might not even want you to get it.
The post describes Coco’s journey after art school, attending art openings once per month, and coming to the conclusion that not only does he not “get” art, but he is, “like, 99% sure that nobody’s actually into art and it’s just some exclusive club you can only join if you’ve got more money than interesting things to communicate to the rest of the human species.”
Woah… now that’s a big statement.
The post goes on to bash a series of various art works, coupled with a slew of profanity, even going so far as to judge the audience he witnessed at a particular show. “…What you can't see from this picture is the room full of people staring at this with one hand on their chins and super serious expressions. One girl was even taking notes! Sometimes I wish I possessed the requisite attention span to absorb endless amounts of totally pointless bullshit.” This would be like going to a tennis match, not liking it, and concluding that all sports, athletes, and sports fans are dumb and wasting their time.
Many are eager to jump on the arts community, and the elitism that is consistently attributed with it and while we’ve definitely seen some people in the arts scene who are the stereotypical art snobs, this is definitely not the norm.
It’s also okay to ask what you are supposed to be looking at. Questions are a fantastic way to get to know an artist and their work. Sometimes a little explanation can really help you see a work of art in a new light.
Bottom line, there is a lot of art, and you can’t just stereotype a whole community of arts professionals and art lovers because you don’t fancy contemporary art – not all art needs explanation or “getting.” If contemporary art is not your thing then move on; don’t force yourself to like something.
Art appeals to each viewer on a different level. Some people look at a painting and see commanding brushstrokes, complimentary colours, a political narrative, historical context and an avant guard style. Others look at the same piece and see a pretty picture. Neither interpretation is wrong.
Art is available in every form imaginable and a blanket statement that you don’t understand art is quite severe. Take a look at the variety of pieces below. Maybe they speak to you, maybe they don’t, but we doubt it if you don’t “get” any of them.
above: Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine, oil on canvas, 1916-17.
above: Brian Boulton, Mikey@20.c (Chelsea boots), graphite on paper, 21” x 28.5”
above: The Statue of David by Michelangelo, 1501-1504
above: this clothespin pinching Earth, created by mehmet ali uysal, is part of a contemporary art sculpture exhibit at the Parc de Chaudfontaine, Belgium.
If you don’t even want to try to understand art that’s okay, no one is forcing you, just like there are some people who are just never going to like Nascar, or hockey. If you want to learn more then you have to start training your eye. Buy coffee table books, flip through them every day and don’t worry if you don’t understand the language yet. These books are written by academics for academics, and one day you might understand the lingo but that’s not as important as becoming familiar with what you like, and what you don’t. Maybe Tracey Emin isn’t for you, but we can guarantee there is an artist out there who is a perfect match.
We’re not trying to be cheerleaders, and we don’t like/get everything we see either, if we said we did, we’d be lying. However, if after this you still want to write off art, and the entire arts community, well then enjoy your bare walls, because sometimes haters are just gonna hate.