I see a lot of art…more than most. In the past 10 years, I have seen roughly 1000 museum exhibitions and 2500 gallery exhibitions all over the world; that coupled with books, magazines, websites, television, restaurants, offices, and homes…well, it adds up to a LOT of artwork.
I enjoy looking at artwork on my own – I like to take my own time to experience and react to it without someone else telling me what I should think about the art. Even so, I find it so helpful to seek out knowledge, opinions and insights of others.
This past year I made the effort to visit with about 100 artists – going to their studios, their homes, meeting them for coffee, and seeing them at their shows. These artists are almost always willing to take the time out to talk about their work and explain the ideas and processes that go into producing their art.
When I go gallery hopping, I like to look around at my own pace without the feeling that a salesperson is hovering over my shoulder – it just seems like pressure and takes my focus away from interacting with the art. However, I do like to understand what the art is all about so once I have taken some time to see the work for myself, I engage gallerists to tell me about what I am seeing. I usually want to know about the current body of work, about how the pieces relate to other works by the artist and about why the gallerist feels like it matters. Gallerists & dealers are willing advocates for the artworks they show and the artists they represent.
When I go to museums, I read the literature – the curators take pride in revealing the ideas behind the shows they present. Usually, volunteers are around and willing to discuss the works on show, and frequently guided tours are available. Discussions by artists, curators, collectors and critics are often listed in the programs. When I know that I am going to see a show, I will ask other people about their thoughts on it and if I have the opportunity to revisit it, I find someone with interest in the show to join me so I can get their reactions to the art and hopefully learn from their observations.
I like to believe that the response to art is my own, but understanding the artist’s objectives and how it is received by others, their observations about techniques, inspirations, historial references and influences all give me clues with which I form my opnions.
I was recently in at a discussion with a group of artists and Ben Rasmussen was showing his photos from around the world – some beautiful images of rather remote locations and of totally unfamiliar customs. I remarked that I feel like I have a “tourist’s eye of the world” – I travel and I see a lot, but to be honest I’m like most and really only get the tourist view.
It’s the same with art: I do see an awful lot of art – most of it on my own, but I usually get only a superficial glance. I get the most out of it when I take the time to engage others in a shared experience.