I Don’t “Get” Modern Art

It’s no secret that I don’t get modern art.  It seems pretension and stupid to me.  A very small sliver is good, but that doesn’t make up for this:

(To be fair that is performance art)

I should tell you how, as an eight year old, I led a revolution against modern art and tortured the museum curator.  Those were the days.

A little background first.

My dad loves painting landscapes, I grew up in a house where painting was beloved. I went to an art class after school when I was fourteen.

So even at that age I adored art I liked.  I loved most of the museum.

However, I was perhaps a bit too blunt about my opinions on art at that age. The curator led my class into the modern art section. We sat down in front of a giant painting that was nothing but a giant orange-red spot against a grey background.

You could tell the curator adored the painting, because she gushed on and on about its deep meaning of “love”, “anger”, and all these things she said it represented.

I didn’t get it.  All I saw was a giant spot.  To me art required some skill, but I could make a spot. Why, I did that the other day when I decorated my doll’s dress with the red marker.

So, when she said, “Any questions”, like the precocious child I was, I raised my hand and declared, “It’s a spot.”

Her lips pressed together and she plastered on a sweet smile, responding, “No, you’re not seeing it correctly. It’s more than a spot. It’s a representation of the artist’s message to the world.”

I frowned, only seeing a spot. My hand shot up again and I said, “No, it’s spot. I can draw a spot.”

Her nostrils flared as she inhaled and in a voice that would make Dolore’s Umbridge sound coarse, told me, “You’re too young to get it. This is not a spot, but a work of genius.”

But now the other kids were joining in on the fun. We were like dogs with a bone. A crowd of baby chicks that started chirping, “It’s a spot.”

More hands shot up and more of my peers said, “Yeah, it’s a spot”.

The curator went a little red in the face, and she looked upset by our inability to comprehend the genius of this artist.  “You don’t get it,” she sputtered, continuing to argue we were wrong.

Then one of my class mates, pointed at her pants and said, “I have spots too!  Pink ones, yellow ones, orange ones…”

“Those are polka dots,” the curator said icily.

“So…” the girl cocked her head to the side. “Is that a giant polka dot?”

“No! It’s not a polka dot. Let’s move on. Next painting,” the curator said, clearly defeated by a band of eight years olds who just could not see anything more than a spot.

So, yeah that was the time I led my class in revolution agains the infamous “Dot” painting.

Even after all these years, I still think it was just a spot.

12 thoughts on “I Don’t “Get” Modern Art

  1. Hi Mara
    You are not the only one who has difficulties “getting modern art”. Contemporary art is the result of 100 years of an evolution trying to free artists from the paradigm “a good painting is as close as possible to a photograph”. People like Vassili Kandinsky tried to explain that in their writings. But then these people had to deal with human madness through the events around the 2 world wars.
    Nowadays contemporary art is going a path away from public and towards elite thinking. I don’t think that’s what Kandinsky wanted when he talked about colors being “able to put our soul to vibrate”.
    The video example you show is a great one : it deals with very serious issues (human condition, the absurd part of life, and so on) but the outcome is just something purely ridiculous. At least this one you can laugh about ! Many other installations or happenings are simply over the limit.
    To me real art speaks to the soul and doesn’t need explanations. Many young artists have understood that. They don’t try to sell in galleries or in museums. They call it street art and it reminds me of the “salon of the refused” of the impressionists in 19th century …
    But some contemporary artists do produce interesting stuff even if it’s non figurative and when you get interested in why they do what they do things get clearer and really worth an effort. Most of these artists try to speak to the spectator’s soul through images that express feelings and they manage to do so : Fabienne Verdier, Zao Wou Ki, Francis Bacon are just a few of them.
    I hope you can still find interest in modern art after this and wish you a wonderful day

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you so much for that detailed and passionate explanation. I agree that there are some really good pieces of modern art. I was perhaps too young at that time to get it, but even as an adult I still think of it as only a spot.

      Art definitely is something that creates an impression that can’t be easily defined. I know what I like and when something speaks to me.

      So I hope modern art gets away from catering to elite thinking and back to the roots. I’ll look into the artists you named.

      Thank you so much

      Liked by 1 person

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