What Is Art All About?

Everything we do is a matter of taste and training – I’m paraphrasing physicist Brian Greene, author of “The Elegant Universe.” How we then form appreciation for and understanding of aesthetics? The individual journey to learning and self-discovery is what forms and cultivates one’s taste.

What is art? Roy Lichtenstein argued that “Organized perception is what art is all about.” Émile Zola thought that art is “nature as seen through a temperament,” while René Magritte claimed that “Each thing we see hides something else we want to see.” Einstein thought that “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” Is it art an attempt to uncover the mysterious?

Perception, temperament, curiosity, and self-expression are the backbones of creative life. What role does then art accomplish? I can only begin by saying that art fulfils the basic human need for beauty and harmony, it shapes perception, it feeds curiosity and imagination, it unlocks self-expression, it conveys emotion, it makes a statement, it signals social status, and the list can go on, and on, and on.

How does one cultivate good taste? Museums and art galleries are a good place to start. Then art books, magazines, catalogue essays, conversations with artists, collectors, and art dealers add another layer to one’s understanding and appreciation for the arts. Both The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Guggenheim Museum have made available for free many of their art publications.

Let me highlight some of the best art magazines that I read: Art in America, ArtNews Magazine, American Art Collector Magazine, American Fine Art Magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, Plein Air Magazine, Interview Magazine (founded by Andy Warhol), Private Art Investor (London), Cahiers d’Art (Paris), Frieze, ArtNet, Artsy, Hyperallergic, and many more.  

American Art Collector magazine, published in Scottsdale, Arizona, covers a variety of art-related topics: features of leading contemporary artists, interviews with art collectors and dealers, gallery shows, auctions, and art trends. In 2015, for instance, the magazine produced a special feature dedicated to the art of the horse. Read here my interview with artist and gallerist Juliet Harrison, owner of Equis Art Gallery in Red Hook, Hudson Valley. Equis Art Gallery specializes exclusively in equine art.

American Fine Art Magazine, also published in Scottsdale, Arizona, defines itself as more than a magazine, and more like an interactive marketing tool written to generate publicity and increase business for historic American fine art. Scholarly commentary, previews of art shows, and market reports make this magazine such an important source of reliable information.

Yet another valuable resource is  Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, published in Florida. Fine Art Connoisseur covers museums, galleries, art fairs, auctions, and private collections; it focuses on American and European representational painting, sculpture, drawings and prints, both contemporary and historical.

Catskills artist Peter Yamaoka recently shown at The Other Half Gallery in Vero Beach, Florida
Catskills artist Peter Yamaoka recently shown at The Other Half Gallery in Vero Beach, Florida. (c) Simona David

Published in London, Private Art Investor magazine has a slightly different focus: Private Art Investor looks at art as more of an asset class than a source of beauty. As a side note, the global art market in 2014 was according to the European Fine Art Foundation over 51 billion Euros (approx. $67 billion at an average exchange rate of 1.32 in 2014).

Some of the recent trends seen in contemporary art include: a significant increase in the online art market, the rise of Instagram as the place to go for discovering new artists, and a younger generation of artists who doesn’t mind forming collectives and showing art in self-owned spaces.

One final point, ArtNet magazine published a list with one hundred most influential people in the art world in 2015; the list includes collectors, curators, and artists who’ve made an impact in the art world. Looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings.

© 2015 Simona David

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