Once upon a time art was a collective action. You can find more about that here. Then it was used for social stratification role. Aristocracy was only able to collect artworks and make artists paint them. Many years have gone since that time. Nowadays art objects are achievable for everyone. The problem today is that not everyone understands it and gets its point.
Many people claim that contemporary art is not art at all. They visit exhibitions so that they will be able to be sure their belief is right one more time. However, let us take a look and see whether we can understand it. Here are certain rules for those who want to prepare themselves for an understanding of contemporary art.
The First Rule
It is the most difficult rule. It can be called The Rule of “I can do so, too”. Contemporary art reflects the most important situations of nowadays’ life. Its task is to call for a dialogue. That is why you should forget such words as “I will never hang it on my wall” or “I can draw the same picture”. The essential value of a piece of contemporary art is in its meaning and not in the technology of drawing. If an artist is interested in a person, they will make a photo. For example, Helmut Newton did so with a singer David Bowie.
If an artist wants to lead a dialogue with another artist they will choose the most proper and actual way for it. This is the case of Dan Flavin who created an installation named “For Tatlin”.
If an artist is interested in politics, they will express themselves on the subject of politics. There is no need to make an example, nowadays we are used to such expressions.
The Second Rule
You should not try to understand. When learning at school we used to begin an essay with a sentence “The author wanted to say that…” As a result, now we think that after looking at an art object we should come to a certain conclusion. This conclusion is considered to be unequivocal and precise. We think that if we conclude something that author did not want to say, we will get a bad mark. As if someone will force us out from a gallery and will never ask us to come and perceive contemporary art with understanding.
However, it is wrong to think so. The thing is that it is impossible to have a correct or incorrect interpretation of an artwork. Each opinion of a spectator supplements the work of art. In a certain sense, the spectator is a co-author of an art object because they have right for any possible interpretation.
The awesome thing about the most artworks is that they are not an unequivocal phenomenon. The time of manifesto is gone a long time ago. There is not only one expression that can be understood correctly or incorrectly. There is information you should perceive. You have a right to accept it or not.
The Third Rule
Live the experience. The work of art is a means of communication. An artist communicates with an audience. For an audience, a work of art is a ground to talk to each other. It is an occasion to find words to express their experience related to the things they have just seen.
An awesome example is a work by Olafur Eliasson “The Weather Project”, which was presented in British Gallery in 2003.
What manages the mood of thousands of people? What makes them smile or feel upset? What unites them every day without any dependence on profession, outlook and social status? It is the weather.
During the exhibition in the Tate hundreds of people were coming to enjoy the lights of artificial sun. They fixed the meetings there, organized picnics with friends. They found a place for leisure in the museum.
The Fourth Rule
A hundred years ago, art functioned as something decorative. It was the highest level of luxury, if a person could afford to buy a work of art or to order a sculpture of a certain artist. Works of art were adorning palaces of an aristocracy, houses of patrons of art. They were accessible only for a narrow circle of selected people.
Nowadays, art does not serve as a decoration of interiors. It is useful for the translation of ideas. Have you ever heard about an idea which was locked up and which is shown only when there is a holiday? You do not need to wear an evening dress in order to meet an art object. That is exactly why the places for contemporary art are not only museums and art centers but also the urban space.
The Fifth Rule
A work of art represents our emotions. Whether you like it or not, those are all emotional judgments. In general, you can stop on this level. However, you can go further and try to analyze your impressions. You can think about associations, you can share your experiences with others. There is a set of possible questions you may ask yourself when contemplating the work of art:
What do I see? Which color is it? What is it made from?
What size does it have in relation to me?
What does it remind me of?
Why does it remind me this?
What is the difference between this object and other similar objects?
Why is it here in this very place?
There are a lot of questions you may ask yourself when standing in front of an art object. Remember, you should not try to come to the only possible correct conclusion. Your thoughts may differ; you may feel sad, or happy, or fascinated, or angry. Every emotion is appropriate.
If you do not like certain artwork, you should not get angry with yourself. What is more, you should not feel silly if you do not understand something. There are too many people in the world.
Artists are also just ordinary people. They express their experience that is based on their worldview. That is why it is normal if your worldview and life experience do not match with that of an artist. The great thing about art, though, is that you can definitely find something related to you, something that touches your heart and you feel intense emotions when standing near exactly this work of art. Do not be pessimistic about contemporary art, go look for your art object. It is definitely worth your searches.