The story of the pair of glasses left on the floor in an art gallery has taken the world by storm and everybody had a little bit of a laugh about it. Some went, as far as to say, I am not sure either jokingly or not, that art is dead. Which is, to say the least, a not very well thought statement.
Nonetheless, the whole situation proves something that all of us should consider. That is the way we are perceiving art together with a certain kind of fear of being laughed at and considered unsophisticated.
There is a whole debate about the purpose of contemporary art and what does it mean and why do people create it and why do we have it. I will not go into that debate here and now.
What is important is that people tend to believe that there is a right and a wrong way to experience art and that, if you do it right you will appear to be knowledgeable, smart and sophisticated and if you do it the wrong way you’ll be laughed at.
I am pretty sure at least one of those people taking picture of the glasses that were left on the floor thought: “these are just some glasses on the floor”. Furthermore, willing not to appear an ignorant of the beauties of contemporary art, he fired away clicking the button of his camera reputedly, trying to make sense of the piece of art. In the process of trying to appear refined and knowledgeable, that person managed to do the exact opposite.
I am not an art critic and I never (ever) intend to be one (seriously). Nonetheless I think we should be free not to like art and to bluntly say: “I don’t get it”. And I actually think we are free to do so but we are just afraid that our friends, or the people next to us in the art galleries or the people writing reviews for newspapers will say this or that about us. So what?
You cannot like all pieces of art ever created. Indeed, what is art for some will be completely nonsense for you. You can love the whole concept of art, but it is very unlikely that you will love every piece that X or Z called art. If you did, art will probably be rather pointless.
Some things do not speak to you; it’s as easy as that. We are not afraid to say “I don’t like this book” or “I don’t like that song” but we seem to be afraid to say, “I have never liked this type of paintings”. And that really puts people off going to galleries and art museums. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable and judged and indeed this is not how one should feel when visiting a museum or an art gallery.
Looking at the other side of the coin, I am thinking that maybe, just maybe, some people looked at that pair of glasses and thought: “oh my, I love this piece”. I really wish that happened because that would perfectly prove how some pieces of artwork and how beautiful their way of working is. Sometimes what is not intended to be art can be art and what is intended to be, isn’t.
Truth is there is no universal standard for what is art or not, let alone for what is amazing art and bad art. Yes, it is easy to believe that if something is in huge, renown museum, that piece must be art. But there will be other museum curators and art critics and artists that will think otherwise. You should not feel embarrassed for liking or disliking something in a museum. Even if we are discussing here about a painting about one of the masters, such as, let’s say Picasso or Dali.
The pair of glasses incident tells us a lot about how art works today but again, that is a very separate topic which would have to be considered from a rather more technical standpoint. What I think is very important to understand from this incident is that you are free to experience art the way you want to do it and that you should go to museums and art galleries and spend hours admiring the pieces that you like and feel free to ponder just ten seconds looking at others. Without shame, without feeling uncomfortable, without looking over your shoulder trying to determine how much time you should spend looking at a certain piece using the number of people trying to get a picture of it.
Art is a truly personal experience and once you discover what you like you will fall in love with the way art can change your life and the way you see the world. Do not let people criticising your taste stop you from getting a fresh perspective on life and from experiencing some truly eye opening, mind bending, consciousness altering moments experiencing art.
William Alec is a full time writer, dreamer and art lover. He took to writing at age 14 and his latest novel is called A hospital for souls.