If you've ever been to an art museum, looked at a specific piece of art, and thought, "I could make that", you're not alone. In our contemporary art world, many artists seem to have moved past showcasing technical skill in favor of highlighting a concept or idea. This makes viewing popular art made within the past few decades frustrating for lovers of more traditional, technically-savvy art.
After all, once you're used to looking at masterpieces like this...
...it might hurt your brain to see art like this...
What Makes Art Valuable?
But there's a problem with this kind of thinking. When someone says, "I could make that", they show that they only value art for how easy it is to create (aka, technical skill...see bullet point #2 in the list below). And we know that art can hold value for many reasons, including:
What makes art so interesting is the fact that every single person holds a different set of ideals when it comes to what makes art valuable. Which is why a museum would dare to exhibit a sideways urinal and you might think your 5-year-old could do a better job at creating meaningful art.
Let's Look at Duchamp's Fountain
Yes, a lot of people could have come up with the concept to turn a toilet on its side, sign it, and call it art. But they didn't. Marcel Duchamp may not have physically created that toilet with his two hands, but he did think to turn it into art.
The story of Duchamp's Fountain is quite important in the art world. In fact, Fountain is considered to be one of the most influential art works of the 20th century. Duchamp was a fairly well-known artist and board member of the Society of Independent Artists. When the board agreed to allow every single entry into an upcoming salon, Duchamp decided to test the board's ideals and submit Fountain under a fake name, R. Mutt. The board ultimately decided to reject Fountain, and Duchamp resigned from the board in protest of their censorship. Fountain has been a topic of discussion for almost 100 years, helping viewers to question their own ideals about the value of art.
How Do You Value Art?
Do you know what makes art valuable to you? The next time you think "I could make that", run the artwork through the checklist stated above. Maybe a piece of art isn't technically perfect (or even made by the artist in Duchamp and Warhol's cases), but it can cause you to think about social or political issues. Maybe the artist isn't famous, but wow, that painting is beautiful. Maybe you would never hang a specific painting in your living room, but it inspires you to make a change in your life.
You'll find yourself looking longer at artwork you don't find immediately pleasing. The result will be a deeper understanding of and a more personal connection with a wider variety of art.