Coming to Appreciate Art

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I have a confession: for some time now I’ve been cynical of art. More specifically modern art. For example, here is a piece of art I encountered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City:

Modern Art at the MoMA

I can’t help but ask myself: how is this art? Even more puzzling: how does it have a place in the world-renowned MoMA? At first-glance, this piece seems on par with something my four-year-old nephew could create. Then, as a web designer, I am reminded most people think websites are something their nephews could create too.

What’s my point? I realize I don’t understand or appreciate art because I am ignorant of it. People don’t understand or appreciate web design because they are ignorant of it. As a general rule of thumb, the more you immerse yourself in something and learn its intricacies and rationales the more you come to appreciate and respect it. That goes for modern art or web design. Get to know the things you criticize. Generally, the more you know the less you will criticize.

So Is It Art or Not?

The question still remains, what is art? Is that scribbled piece of canvas art? Here’s a tip from Milton Glaser, a celebrated graphic designer, on determining what is and is not art:

you cannot tell art by virtue of medium, or function, or anything else except by the fact of its raising your consciousness to a degree that you are attentive. And so if something produces the state of attentiveness, whether it’s a drawing, or a guy making a cheese sandwich, we can call it art, at least by my description

According to Glaser, if something “produces a state of attentiveness”, whether it’s Van Gogh’s Starry Night or this seemingly scribbled mess, you can call it art.

As you may have noticed, that scribbled mess at the MoMA brought me an incredible amount of introspection and reflection. It raised my consciousness to a degree that I was attentive. I suppose that is why it has a place at the Museum of Modern “Art”.