Towards a Better Understanding of Art

Ever felt lost when looking at a work of contemporary art? Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor and former Tate gallery director, addresses this common phenomenon in his article in The Huffington Post.

He offers some solace and explanation for the confusion: “…I don’t think the real issue is about judging whether or not a brand-new piece of contemporary art is good or bad–time will undertake that job on our behalf. It is more a question of understanding where and why it fits into the modern art story.”

We agree with Gompertz that evaluating the quality of the art is not the issue and that learning about art history is important. However, we would offer a different approach. In Slow Art Day events around the world, art novices and experts alike seem to overcome confusion simply by looking for 10 minutes. Interestingly, no matter how provocative, unusual, minimalist, or indescribable the work is, Slow Art Day participants report having a good, not confusing, experience.

We hypothesize that 10 minutes of looking creates an experience where the viewer sees and feels things not immediately apparent. We believe these participants go through a process of personal discovery that, based on their feedback, seems to create a sense of joy and excitement.

We have more work to do to fully understand what works about Slow Art Day but it does seem to us that participants get excited ┬ábecause they discover they actually have something to say about the art – and because they have created a connection that is emotional, intellectual, visual or spatial.

Yes, art history is important and many of the organizers of Slow Art Day are art historians or students pursuing that degree. But, the thousands of participants every year are not experts. Indeed, they are likely to be the kind of person that does not like contemporary art – unless and until they spend 10 minutes looking at a single piece.

– Naomi Kuo, Slow Art Day Intern; edited by Phil Terry