I used to love going to galleries. Every summer, my parents would bring our family to another part of the world and introduce us to a new sculptor, painter or performance artist. I was wowed by Antoni Gaudi, Salvador Dali and Edvard Munch, I was enticed by Ferdinan Finne, Anna Ancher and Gustav Klimt, and I was bored by a multitude of others.
I don’t know when my taste changed, but somewhere around my early twenties, I stopped going to art galleries. Not a conscious choice, life just got in the way, and I stopped earning enough to go on vacations. Somehow going to museums in my home town felt odd.
But when a friend of mine asked me to join her at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts yesterday, I didn’t feel like I could say no. After all, I used to adore going to galleries, and the exhibition of contemporary Canadian painters was free.
As soon as I set foot inside the place, I remembered what I used to love about going to art shows. The silence of the crowd. The place was as packed as it was hushed. The tension in the air as everyone who went inside quietly committed to a vow of silence made my tummy tingle. It felt like I was part of something truly important.
But of course there’s a but. I looked at the sixty year old pieces that claimed to be contemporary, and I felt nothing. Sure, it was interesting to see how the textures of oil on canvas played with the edges of color and light, but it didn’t move me. Not like this does:
Pumped up kicks:
Look at the beauty of movement in that piece. See how he captures the spirit of our age as well as pushes the boundaries of what I thought people were able to physically do. How is that not art?
Lindsey Stirling’s Crystallize:
Listen to the beauty of that piece of music and tell me you weren’t moved.
Muto by Blu:
See how that piece of art tells a story, a story that gains momentum over time. It is beautiful.
In fact, looking at those pieces of art, hidden on the internet, I can’t help but feel that what we attribute value to has less to do with the merit of the piece, and more to do with society. The silence inside the gallery is a sign of an unspoken agreement that this is art and therefore important. That is what gives us the feeling of awe when we enter the art gallery, not so much the things that hang there.
The real contemporary art is hidden in the mess of youtube, on fan forums, inside blogs and in the shout-outs of social media. So I won’t be going back to the galleries soon. Why should I, when the most moving pieces of art I’ve seen in years aren’t there?