It’s only fair to start off by saying that I have very little appreciation for art. When I look at a painting or sculpture, the extent of my analysis is either “I like this” or “I think this is kind of shitty.” Don’t talk to me about brushstrokes, cubism or whatever else art-folk like to talk about; my only response will be to stare blankly before saying, “I still think this is kind of shitty.” By all accounts I’m a complete Philistine, and proud of it.
That’s not to say that I hate all art. Some of it can be kind of cool-looking. That Van Gough guy? Not bad. I’ve even visited the Philadelphia Art Museum of my own free will on numerous occasions and enjoyed it. However, there is one type of art that I truly do despise to the point that I would happily send all those who create it down to the deepest pit in Tartarus: modern art.
Modern art must have started out as someone’s joke on the art world: “Let’s make literally the worst piece of art ever and see who takes it seriously.” Unfortunately, sarcasm apparently does not exist in the art world, as today some of the most nonsensical and mind-bogglingly awful pieces of art are the most respected. Critics go crazy over them; the more abstract, the better. Surely, if people who actually know about art love them, then I must be missing something.
I decided to educate myself the best way I knew how. I decided to visit the Museum of Modern Art.
It seemed like the perfect plan. I would go to the MOMA and be so totally blown away by all of the amazing, not-at-all-sucky art that my opinion of modern art would be forever changed. I mean, it’s the MOMA, for god’s sake. There’s no way the art there could be bad.
I have rarely ever been so wrong.
The very first thing that I saw was some sort of interactive art piece. Visitors could walk through a maze of white, gauzy curtains and hope that the microphones suspended from the ceiling wouldn’t fall onto their heads. It kind of reminded me of a haunted maze, apart from the fact that it was missing everything that makes a haunted maze enjoyable. Instead, it just kind of felt like I was walking through Florence Welch’s closet. As for the microphones, I’m still unsure of why they were there, as they didn’t seem to be amplifying anything in particular.
So what if I didn’t like the first piece that I saw? Things can only get better, right? I gave myself a mental pep-talk as I headed up the stairs.
Unfortunately, it didn’t get better. I spent the next 45 minutes looking at white squares, a pink plank propped up against a wall and a sculpture that included a dead rabbit. (I prefer to think that the rabbit was fake rather than an actual carcass. It helps me sleep better at night.) My breaking point, however, came when I entered a room that featured a piece that was nothing more than a hanging sculpture of a penis. As I looked up at the ball sack dangling above my head, I knew it was time to give up my quest. I was never going to appreciate modern art.
I spent a total of an hour and a half in the MOMA, which breaks down to less than twenty minutes on each floor. Many would argue that this isn’t nearly enough time to really understand the artists’ intentions and appreciate their work. I would tell these people to shut up. Had I spent another minute there, I would have performed hara-kiri with the sharpest sculpture I could find. It wasn’t even that I hated everything that I saw — I admit, some of the pieces were very well done. The vast majority of the pieces, however, left me baffled and more than a little angry that someone, somewhere, was making money off of a blank piece of canvas. I had hoped that I would leave New York feeling more cultured than I had been before. Instead, I just kind of wished I had gone to a movie.