Guest blog – Is understanding art the exclusive preserve of connoisseurs?
The following is an inspirational and honest view from one of our contacts, we thought we’d share it with you in the first of our guest blogs.
I’m struck by the idea that art is somehow perceived as an elitist “sport”, and that for many stepping into an art gallery can be an intimidating experience where if you’re going to have an opinion, then you’d better know what you’re talking about in case you embarrass yourself. Many daren’t express their view as they may be overheard by a so called “expert”.
So I ask myself Is understanding art the exclusive preserve of connoisseurs?
Some of my friends can be quite unpleasant about art, artists, and individuals that follow art. At one exhibition on seeing a group of “experts” standing in front of a painting, one of my companions commented, “Let’s just be clear here, this lot have stood like nut job wine connoisseurs for half an hour snuffling, slurping, and waffling over a small photograph of an old man standing in a doorway in an oversized pair of pants. It’s just a man in a doorway with stupid trousers! I could do that and stick it up there and make thousands!”
But was his reaction because he just doesn’t understand art? Walking around for the rest of the evening you’d have been forgiven for thinking yes!
I know nothing about wine and if I walked into a wine tasting session and heard, “Oh yes… intricate plum on the nose with… leather and syrup on the mid-palate and… a long sumptuous finish”, I’d walk out of there believing that I had absolutely no idea about wine. I don’t understand what makes a good wine or the processes it goes through from infancy as a grape to a lovely sloshing liquid. I don’t even know what a mid-palate is, do I even have one? I do, however, know what I like by the way of flavour and texture. I understand what makes a good wine, for me.
So of course one doesn’t need to understand art (or wine) to enjoy and appreciate it. But again, what is meant by “to understand” and how is it decided whether one has an understanding or not?
Let’s take an overused example, Emin’s “My bed”. I personally don’t like “My Bed” (my daughter has one in her bedroom, perhaps without the vodka bottles, cigarette butts and I blooming hope, pregnancy test). I just don’t get why she won’t tidy it up, and I also don’t get why Emin’s recreation of the worst part of my house is a good idea for art! But the powers that be thought it was marvellous and it was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, so does that mean I don’t understand art?
I think understanding art is in the same camp as what makes art good, both are subjective. I also think it is a personal experience and that we all understand art because we know what we like and we can express in our own words what that is. Obviously, there are degrees of experience and knowledge.
So, my answer to “is understanding art the exclusive preserve of connoisseurs”, would be absolutely not sir!