How to appreciate art

Art by Sean Eidder

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how to get into art.

With all the fairs and events happening these days, you might be wondering: how do I begin participating in all of that? It seems to me that a common dilemma is wanting to start appreciating and talking about art more critically, but feeling a little bit intimidated to do so.

You may feel that way because you didn’t study it, or you don’t know how to draw, or you just feel like it’s too smart for you to understand it. I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be afraid to start looking at art. Although art is an intellectual pursuit, it doesn’t mean that you need to know a whole lot of art theory to be able to look at works and find appreciation in them.

So here are some tips I can provide you to help you ease your doubts and intimidations and get into art:


Remember that almost everyone visiting a museum or gallery has the same goal as you.

Unless you’re an art collector, most people who are visiting museums, galleries, or art events go to these events with one goal in mind: to look at the works. You’re not alone in wanting to appreciate art. And lots of people are starting out, too.

A good place to start would be local museums, and thankfully, a lot of them are free. You can check out the National Museum, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Ayala Museum (not free), and a lot more. It’s good to start with museums because their goal is to educate. If you feel like you don’t know anything about art, then the museum is great because it’s meant to make art more accessible.


Have an open mind.

Sometimes you’ll see a pile of junk and think: this shouldn’t even be art.

Read the wall text. There’s often a reason why the artist made the artwork that way. You can also approach it by looking at it from different angles rather than just looking at it as an object of beauty. You can think about the thought process it could’ve taken the artist to make a work, or the effort it took for them to make it, or how it can converse in the context of the world today, and you’ll probably find something interesting about it.

Accept that there are things you don’t like, and learn how to verbalize them.

So you’ve tried to have an open mind and it failed. That’s okay. We have our own personal preferences, but it’s beneficial to learn how to verbalize why you don’t like something.

This is not to say that you need an expansive vocabulary, but it helps to know a few words that will be able to help you express your opinions. There’s always a reason why you might not like something. For example, rather than flat out saying that you don’t like something because you don’t get it, maybe you can ask yourself what about the work makes it difficult to understand.


Visit museums and galleries often.

Practice makes perfect and you’ll get the hang of looking at art and visiting art events eventually. When starting out, definitely bring a friend! It’s less intimidating if you bring someone along with you, and you guys can even talk about what you looked at together.

Remember that galleries are definitely an option for visiting as well (and they’re free).Galleries don’t usually have permanent collections, so everything that they exhibit tends to be more contemporary. Most galleries open a show once a month. By going often, you might even start seeing some trends in the Philippine art scene, or maybe discover things you might have not known before and that may eventually shape your art-viewing experience.


If you really don’t feel confident about your art knowledge, it doesn’t hurt to research.

You can look up a lot of resources online to make you feel more at ease in terms of discussing art. If you feel overwhelmed, you can start with looking up artists whose works you like or have heard of, and then branch out with your research. A good place to start would be Art Assignment’s “The Case for…” videos.


Lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself.

Have fun when looking at art. Don’t take art appreciation too seriously — not everything has a symbolic code that we need to understand to be able to appreciate something, so have fun with it! Remember that you can find enjoyment in art through its existence and silliness.

Arianna Mercado is the recipient of the 2017 Ateneo Art Awards – Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism. She is currently a columnist for The Philippine Star.

#art #culture

Share this: