Being curious, being willing to learn, having a sense of humour, enjoying a bit of chaos, willing to seek advice, not being easily offended and enjoying a good puzzle will enhance your appreciation of art.
As mentioned, exhibition catalogues are my main aid but there are also any number of good art reference sources if you feel a bit adventurous. The best place to start would be to periodically pick up an art magazine. An excellent one in Canada is the magazine CanadianArt. Not only are the articles interesting but the “Agenda” section provides “…a national and international roundup of the season’s best exhibitions”. Another good Canadian magazine is BorderCrossings. For the more adventurous and internationally inclined, ArtForum is a treasure trove of art gallery promotions, articles on a variety of themes and extensive listings of major international shows.
Pick an exhibition or an artist that catches your interest and then do a little research. Trust me, just a little bit of research will pay huge dividends in expanding your level of appreciation of the artist’s work (context, context, context).
If you have done any reading, you are well aware of the considerable amount of bafflegab that is out there. If you are just starting out, do not let your first encounter with verbal and conceptual nonsense discourage you. There are talented and knowledgeable writers that are more approachable and when you find them you recognize and appreciate the difference immediately. One such writer is Sarah Milroy (formally with CanadianArt and the Globe and Mail).
A real bonus is to have a knowledgeable friend walk you through an exhibition or direct you to a specific artist or exhibition.
For anyone with an interest in “modern/contemporary” art, an excellent general reference source (although it focuses only on the collection in the National Gallery of Art in Washington) is a free on-line document on the National Gallery’s website (www.nga/gov/education/index.shtm). Look for “Art Since 1950” under the Resource Finder Topics – Modern/Contemporary Art. If anyone knows of a similar source for Canadian artists I would appreciate hearing about it.
If you feel motivated to explore further afield than your local art galleries, art magazines and the reference above, then some suggested reading (in no particular order) follows:
- Visions: Contemporary Art in Canada, edited by Robert Bringhurst, Geofrey James, Russell Keziere and Doris Shadbolt (published in 1983)
- Art Since 1900, Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh (printed in 2004)
- Sculpture Today, Judith Collins, Phaidon (published in 2007).