How to Recognize a Good Art

by | Aug 6, 2014

Richard Hemilton at the Reina Sofia, Madrid

Richard Hemilton at the Reina Sofia, Madrid

Many times friends ask me how to recognize good art/artist. There is no one recipe to do so though, one can learn how to do so. I couldn’t agree more with Roberta Smith (Read her articles here) , The New York Times art critic, how to do it. She says:

My main activity is looking, looking and more looking, and trying to listen to my subjective reactions as objectively or neutrally as possible. I learn from everything I look at, good, bad or indifferent. I follow my eye reflexively; if it is drawn toward something, I pay attention and try to find out why. You train your eye, build up a mental image bank, and constantly try to pinpoint why some things are convincing and others aren’t.

When I look at new work, my image bank goes into action. I pay careful attention to the names of other artists that flash in my brain as I look at the work. How many other artists exactly come to mind? There’s nothing wrong with this up to a point. I always loved Frank Stella’s observation that when you start out as a painter, you make other painters’ paintings, then you gradually begin to make your own paintings. I try to figure out what’s left in a younger artist’s work once I’ve subtracted the other artists’ influences. Does what remains seem original or at least promising? Is the younger artist aware of the debt and trying to get free of it? Or is that artist just unconsciously accepting received ideas and therefore making work that is generic or derivative? Obviously, the fewer names that come to mind, the greater the odds that you are looking at something fresh that you haven’t quite seen before.

by doing so one practices his/her ability to recognize original art; to differentiate between what has been done in the past and what’s new. The sources to gain such knowledge are everywhere and include visiting galleries, museums, art fairs, searching online, reading art magazines and books, following art critics, talking to artists and more.


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