March 25, 2012

Contemporary Art is Online

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 7:07 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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?



  1. I’ve had ONE “oh my God other people need to see this” experience with art – Anselm Kiefer’s ‘The High Priestess’.

    Comment by A A (@killvore) — March 25, 2012 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  2. While I do love art museums and galleries, I agree with what you said about moving contemporary art being elsewhere. Beautifully written.

    Comment by Vanessa Grassi — March 25, 2012 @ 10:39 pm | Reply

    • Thank you!

      I still love galleries too, I just rarely feel like the effort pays off. I want to be wowed by the things inside, not mildly entertained by them.

      Comment by nascentnovelist — March 25, 2012 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

      • Agreed! And when we have access to so many amazing things online it makes me less inclined to go. I’d rather be wow’d at home than mildly entertained out.

        Comment by Vanessa Grassi — March 25, 2012 @ 11:03 pm

  3. I’m sorry you won’t be going to art galleries any more. While I do agree a lot of great contemporary art is found outside of the galleries, I do think you are missing out of a lot by writing off galleries. Sure, one can see much of one of my favourite photographers Sally Manns’ work online, but your average laptop screen isn’t doing her pictures justice. And youtube, youku, etc, are all full of good contemporary pieces, but I don’t think that is a valid reason to writing off equally good installations at art galleries where one might find oneself in a room with video telling story projected onto the all walls, roof and floor.

    By focusing solely on what the internet can give you, you also miss out on art forms that doesn’t necessarily fit online. Like sculpture or most performance artists.

    I think that if the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is the first art museum you’ve been to since your early twenties, you should probably try a couple more before you make the conclusion art galleries aren’t worth your time.

    Comment by Guri — March 26, 2012 @ 6:40 am | Reply

    • Bah! I scoff at you and your moderate views.

      Of course I won’t write them all off. I went to the Montreal museum of Contemporary Art a couple of months back (okay, so I exaggerated the time away from museums to add tension to my piece) and I did enjoy some of the things I saw there too. It’s just, I don’t know, I haven’t been wowed by gallery art in a long time.

      I want those pieces that makes me go: everyone has to see this! Not pieces that makes me go: well, I like the brush strokes and I can see what they’re trying to do here. You know?

      I think I’ll wait on the museums until someone tells me I have to come see something. That way I know it has a higher potential of awesome. (Or if I have writer’s block. It’s a great place to go for inspiration.)

      Comment by nascentnovelist — March 26, 2012 @ 8:09 am | Reply

      • Haha. I’m glad to hear you’re not writing them all off πŸ™‚

        I actually think your strategy sounds pretty good. That way you don’t waste any time going to exhibitions that won’t give you anything, but will probably get to see some/most (depending on your circle of friends) of the really good stuff anyways πŸ˜‰

        Comment by Guri — March 27, 2012 @ 11:30 am

      • Thanks! I’ll let you know how it works out for me. πŸ˜‰

        Comment by nascentnovelist — March 27, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: