Looking at art is like going to a bar (Part 1) or How to look at art this weekend at Tx Contemporary Art Fair


For those of you that love art but are intimidated by people who drop words like phenomenology, deconstruction, and narrative in order to describe a photo of a dying tulip, I extend a treatise (over two posts) that should help you feel confident as you walk among the art snobs this weekend at Texas Contemporary Art Fair. It’s simple, really.

Looking at art at an art fair is like going to a club: 

Part 1 – Preparation before the Party

Here is a list of things you think about while you’re listening to Nikki Minaj before headed out to get your drink’n’dance on:

  • I am going to a club tonight but I don’t do that kind of thing all the time, for heaven’s sake.
  • There are going to be some seriously skanky people there, but, of course, that doesn’t mean that I am skanky.
  • Yeah, I look hot and I hope someone appreciates all the effort I put into flat ironing my hair. Seriously,   if  I wanted to just  hang out with my friends, I would go somewhere where I could hear what they are saying.
  • My week has been such a downer that I need to go someplace that is radically different.

Here’s what this means to me before I hit the galleries:

  • Galleries are someplace that I go every now and then but not all the time. Seriously, I can’t look at that stuff every weekend but when I do it causes my thinking to tilt a little bit (and not in the way that I tilt when I wear my platforms and ride an escalator) Sometimes, I just need to do something different. You know, like needing a girl’s night out, getting dressed up in a mini-skirt and high heels, and dancing to hip hop so I can remember what a sexy chick I am. I need experiences that give me the opportunity to be different, that takes me out of my normal routine, particularly if they give me space for contemplation, which I am in desperate need of.
  • It’s true, much of the art that I will look at will be skanky, like most of the guys who are by themselves waiting to buy me an Eve’s Downfall at Anvil.  Look at it like this, if I see two cute guys at a bar, it’s been a good night. Likewise, if I see two pieces at a gallery I like, I’m a winner. Must remember — if I’m not skanky and I’m at the gallery, there are probably other non-skanks there.
  • Everyone stares at people and I have mastered the subtleties of my technique. When I walk through a museum or gallery, I scan the room like I would a club. I use my instinctual cool girl strategy. In a bar, I estimate I walk right past seventy-five to eighty percent of the people. When looking at art, I scan the scene. I walk past what I don’t like. I don’t feel obligated to look at everything. In the same way that I don’t have to check out guys who I don’t think are cute, I prioritize my art objects. I walk the floor and immediately see the pieces that stand out to me. For heaven’s sake, they don’t have to be important and I don’t have to know who the artist is or what it means or anything. (Do you have philosophical conversations with people at bars?) That is not a requirement. I don’t have to know anything except that upon first glance, I liked it. If I find a few pieces that I think are cool, mission accomplished.
  • I  go to galleries and museums to be transported to a different environment. In the same way that the bass thumping through the speakers and vibrating the walls can incite trance-like feelings, quiet and solitude can engender an equally other-worldly experience, but, again, when in a gallery, I don’t feel like I can’t talk. When I go to see art with people I love, I want to talk to them about what they like and why they like it, etc. Either way, these spaces are different from our everyday environment so it provides a time for different levels of thought and engagement.

I think you get the point. Looking at art is a visual experience. In a culture that prizes the visual over almost all other senses (unless you’re in the South and you know that food that tastes good is better than food that looks good), we are all equipped to experience art. It’s just that most of us are intimidated, but let me assure you that, like above, your club manners are way more helpful than trying to remember what you learned in your 8:00 am Art History 101 class your freshman year in college.

Go to Texas Contemporary Art Fair and get your art on.

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