Looking for art that doesn’t come with white walls and an audio guide

One of the earliest inspirations for The Arts Adventurer was a growing disdain for aspects of the art-viewing experience. I studied art history in college, worked in the art business for ten years, and continue to go to art galleries and museums, but there were things that were a turn-off.

One example of mainstream art-viewing that became a turn-off is the use of audio guides in art museums. I’d go to see a museum exhibition, and would be surrounded by people who were following the little voice in their earphones, oblivious to their fellow museum-goers, and moving from artwork to artwork focused more on what was being told to them rather than what they were seeing with their own eyes. It made me wonder if they were looking at anything other than what they were being told to look at? I do understand the value of getting background information on specific art works, and can see how it might be interesting – at times. It just bugged me how for some people, going through a museum with audio guides was the only way to go.

Another example of frustration was going to well-established and prestigious art galleries and having the experience of feeling like an unwanted visitor in an otherwise temple-like shopping place for the rich. Granted, I know that commercial art galleries are places of business, and they need to sell art in order to survive. And I know from working in a prestigious gallery that there are people who come in and want the time and attention of gallery employees without any intention of ever buying the art, and that’s annoying from the gallery’s perspective as well. But as a public space, can’t one just come into a gallery and enjoy the art without being looked at with disdain?

At any rate, about the same time that I was feeling this way about the traditional venues for looking at art, I was gaining an appreciation for street art and graffiti. So the idea of “looking for art that doesn’t come with white walls and an audio guide” also reflects the idea that I was enjoying an exploration of art in the streets, and wanted to draw attention to the good art I was seeing out there.

Here’s a street art mural that I saw on one of my earliest arts adventures in Trenton in the summer of 2012.

meditation figure graffiti found in Trenton NJ