Three x Ten

October 22nd, 2013  |  Published in October 2013

Three x Ten 

By Gary Gaffney

Take science, for example. Great scientists and science writers know that the average person sees the impact of scientific ideas and innovations on their lives, yet has little understanding of science or scientific thinking. Go to the science section of any large bookstore, and you will find numerous books about scientific discovery, the scientific process and the impact of science on society, many by the greatest living scientists. They understand that making scientific ideas accessible to the common man is essential.

Go to the art section of the same bookstore. Lots of how-to books, picture books and books for the cognescenti.  Few, if any, books there that admit the complexity and difficulty of contemporary art and attempt to address this for the ordinary, but interested, person.

The result is that most affirm the significance of science, and if they wish to learn more can hear from the great scientists. But the artist’s voice is largely absent, and the public turns its back to contemporary art if they even know it exists.

So this is what I offer as advice to engage contemporary art.


How to engage contemporary art

1.    Educate your eye, then trust your gut.

2.    Want to be challenged, not seduced.

3.    The art is more important than the words about the art.

4.    Trust the art that infects you.

5.    Envy is a good sign.

6.    The critic’s head may not be as smart as your gut.

7.    Being “pretty” is never good enough.

8.    Don’t be afraid to expect a lot from the art.

9.    Expect that you have some work to do, too.

10.  Expect it to be not just about now, but about from now on.


When to be suspicious of contemporary art

1.    It’s big and shiny.

2.    It’s just talking to itself while you stand there and watch.

3.    It needs a crutch of words to help it out.

4.    It has no sticking power.

5.    Once you’ve seen, you’ve seen it.

6.    It leaves you with superficial questions, not deep ones.

7.    The artist’s signature is more important that the art itself.

8.    Once it leaves the white cube, it isn’t art anymore.

9.    It comes as no surprise.

10.  It essentially brands itself.


Why care about contemporary art

1.    It’s the art of our time.

2.    It makes us face up to who we are.

3.    It’s a global perspective on the human experience.

4.    Artists can generally be trusted.

5.    It can be damned funny and damned deep at the same time.

6.    There can never be too much beauty in the world–even if it’s ugly at times.

7.    It makes us squirm when we need to.

8.    It makes us think in new ways.

9.    It’s always got something up its sleeve.

10.  It often sees the future.


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