Do you hate modern art? What about modern music?

I think the principal problem with someone saying that they “hate modern art” is the dismissal of a lot of very diverse works completed over a century or so, in widely differing circumstances by a host of unconnected artists.

The people who say they don’t like “modern” art are actually saying that they like paintings or sculpture to “look like something” and haven’t bothered going too far beyond that. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that, when confronted with something abstract, that they are less than impressed. It’s interesting that in those modern works which people do say they like, it is the design element which they highlight.

Music doesn’t usually start from a representational perspective – we don’t expect a dance to literally represent the dance (other than rhythmically) so people are perhaps more ready to accept more divergent sounds. I’d say however that film music has done more to bring modernist music into the wider sphere than it gets credit for.

So instruction and education is the key. The less you understand (or are prepared to understand) art – any art – the more you will be willing to dismiss entire genres outright, no matter whether it is visual or musical art.

Just having a willingness to be open to art is only the first step. While it’s true that there are musical prodigies, there are few, if any, in the written and visual arts. The reason seems clear. What we tend to see in a lot of artistic production and consumption is mirrored in a degree of experience of the world, and some sort of processing of it (meaningful or otherwise). Children don’t yet possess that (or enough of it), nor, I suggest, do adults who have never had, or have never taken, the educational opportunities to expand their horizons. I suppose I’m rather old-fashioned in that I don’t feel that anything truly worth having comes easily, and that the big, insightful benefits in art only come with study and reflection.

The irony is that in order to see the “plain truth” about artworks, you need to understand a lot more than most of the “I know what I like” brigade are prepared to be bothered with.

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