Alright, here’s the thing. No matter what you think about art, you should have some idea about it. Why could be a relevant question. If it didn’t pop up in your mind, then, you possibly don’t need to read this. But then, you probably still should.
A known misconception is: those who study art history cannot really do anything else, anything more valuable by society. *Gong* You’re wrong! I am not trying to advertise a new faith to you, but rather help you show off your cultural side when a situation arises. And it will.
Now imagine you got invited to a gala ball. The owner of the place decided to show off his art collection (and it is a rather realistic situation). He asks for your opinion. And….
- Be always curious. At least seem this way. Speaking from a personal experience here, if I go to a museum with my friend, or a theater, I want to share my thoughts and ideas, my feelings about the piece. So no matter whether you get it or not, show your interest in what the other person is thinking and saying. Best first line: “What do YOU think (feel) about it (art piece, performance, film etc)?” will save you from answering first and you can always form your opinion based on other person’s response.
- Don’t say that you could draw better. Or your kid could draw better. Or the work reminds you of kids doodles. Seriously, don’t. This is the most common reaction we get towards contemporary art (or mostly any abstraction) and, boy, it is also the most frustrating one! A person hearing that, let’s pretend he likes art, could get offended and reserved. Not that many people would have the character to start explaining the opposite, and, to tell you the truth, insulting the art usually never works. So even if this thought flashes in your mind the next time you see something overwhelming in the art piece, calm yourself down, and ask people for help. “Do you understand this piece? I get an emotional vibe from it, as it is deeply psychological,” — hey, that might work magic!
- Don’t say something is boring. Art and culture aren’t for everyone, right? False! If you find yourself in an opera house and fall asleep (it’s happened to the best of us), don’t complain about how boring and awful the production was. People around you might, first, think you’re way out of their social environment and even start an argument. You can, nonetheless, say: “The melody and the singing of performers reminded me of Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor! Such long and calming sounds, I even closed my eyes for a minute!”
- Speak the truth, but verbalize it in the right way. Don’t try to look smarter than you are. You might disagree, but it usually never ends up well. You don’t want to just learn names of a few artists and drop them in all conversations here and there to appear all knowledgable and such. Wake up. People love sincerity. Tell them: “I didn’t understand that part, did you?” You will not seem stupid, you will seem interested and eager to learn. (Refer to the point 1 of this list.)
- Show off what you know while discussing an unknown subject. Connected to previous points, we all are products of our societies, however, there are a few figures everyone knows about. Let’s take Jennifer Lawrence as an example (or any other well-know figure). You know she acted in the Hunger Games, won an Oscar and, well, is a wild one. Now, you go to a museum and see a painting by Barnett Newman – Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950-1951. Red dominates the composition. You think: “Red is force, red is rebellion, red is red carpet, red is vulgar, red is sexy, red is…anything.” I am not assuming all that is true, the point is, you can use personal experiences, memories, unrelated knowledge to talk about art. It is that simple! Just say: “This color reminds me of … , because … .” And you’ll show how sharp-minded and witty you are.
This is it! Professional or not, whether you know it or not, these simple ideas are indeed important. Perhaps, all you need to do is approach the question of understanding and appreciating art from a different perspective.