Why look at art?

Matthew Israel
Dec 10, 2012 9:40PM

Anyone involved in art has asked themselves this question at one point or another. Some thoughts...

-To understand who you are--as usually many myths of national identity are contained in artworks
-To be visually awed (by lines, forms and color)
-To learn the history and customs of other peoples
-To see the technical and conceptual capacity of other people (and to understand those capacities within yourself)
-To learn about the value of objects now and see what objects people have valued over time
-To see what things actually looked like before your time
-To see how different stories can be told and to understand there can be different interpretations of an event
-To connect with other people, particularly the artist, who is often trying to express something to you or the world
-To better understand people (by their reactions to artworks and how they think about them)
-To see and be seen, because art is (very often) a public experience
-To buy a work--to have in your home or acquire for an institution
-To challenge your assumptions
-To confirm your intelligence (if you are a practiced veteran or need some positive affirmation of your knowledge-base)
-To master something
-To propose an interesting date
-To imagine you are someone else, i.e. be taken away temporarily from your own life
-To seek cleanliness and order and organization--which usually characterize the spaces of art galleries and museums
-To feel privileged (in beautiful spaces with beautiful objects)
-To be conscious of how power operates
-To offer yourself up to the possibility of change
-To figure out patterns in our existence, i.e. the constants of art
-To understand the history of style and the changes that happen in particular styles
-To learn how to make things and who to learn from
-To understand what is and what is not art (if you're into such divisions)
-To do your job (if looking at art is part of your job, and to thus be better at your job)
-To find innovation, to be wowed, to see things in a completely different way
-To see what has survived and what has not from history

Matthew Israel