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How to be an art connoisseur? A beginner's guide to appreciating and enjoying world of art

Updated on March 26, 2012
So you want to be an art connoisseur, do you? While some say it is rocket science, some say that all you need is an open mind and a limitless imagination. Let's find out.
So you want to be an art connoisseur, do you? While some say it is rocket science, some say that all you need is an open mind and a limitless imagination. Let's find out. | Source

Learning how to be an art connoisseur isn't always about arming yourself with MFAs or degrees and certificates in Art History, Museology, Art Appreciation and other domains. From a beginner's perspective, it is about developing a keen eye for art be it fine art, prints, catalogues, films, sculpting, new media art, commercial art, performance arts, electronic art, photography and so on. Just like you don't need to own a winery to enjoy good wine, you don't need to be a professional artist to enjoy art. So let's stay away from art jargon and focus on how you can blissfully enjoy art in its purest form and immerse yourself into the limitless and surreal world of art.

To find your interest niche, you must start exploring. Visiting museums and art galleries, reading books, watching documentaries and other such activities are great ways to start exposing yourself to different forms of art.
To find your interest niche, you must start exploring. Visiting museums and art galleries, reading books, watching documentaries and other such activities are great ways to start exposing yourself to different forms of art. | Source

1) Find your niche within the world of art

There's no way you can be an all encompassing art connoisseur and no self proclaimed connoisseur in the world is a know-it-all. Simply because there are innumerable mind boggling forms, types and niches within the broad subject of art that are constantly changing. So your best bet as a beginner art connoisseur is to rummage through everything you can your lay your hands on, about art.

Immerse yourself in reading about painters and their lives, how prints and lithographs are made, how auctions function, the commercial side of buying and selling art, how movies are made and so on. You will have your Eureka moment on finding your topic of passion and comfort. Be well aware, that it might take you a good amount of time to find your niche. Don't hurry, let it come to you naturally as your calling. Till it comes, enjoy your time going through one after another magical piece of art in various art domains because that journey is in itself, pure and blissful.

Just knowing the name of a piece of art and it's artist is not good enough. Go deeper, find out the artist's background, life history, other artists and the works from which he/she took inspiration from, etc - the details are endless.
Just knowing the name of a piece of art and it's artist is not good enough. Go deeper, find out the artist's background, life history, other artists and the works from which he/she took inspiration from, etc - the details are endless. | Source

2) Immerse yourself into the details and unknown depths of art

What do you think differentiates an art connoisseur different from a lay person who consumes art? Simple – the details! A mistake that many beginner art connoisseurs make is that they get into name throwing as soon as they know a thing or two. Don't just go through Picasso's best works and start blabbering off your apparent knowledge in an Art gallery. Anyone can do that and in fact, you could end up embarrassing yourself. Arm yourself with some genuine knowledge first.

If your pick is a Rembrandt, keep looking at it until you can figure out the variation in tone in his early works to his later works. Interrogate and question why Munch painted a screaming man being in the vantage point of Modernism. Think about how affordable art could penetrate to the masses. Explore how art education is being filtered and politicized in the academia and so on.

As you immerse yourself in the details of an art form or a piece of art, you will be able to develop a greater insight and go to depths of understanding that you never imagined. Remember that if you want to learn how to be an art connoisseur, you must absorb everything like a sponge but unlike a sponge, you should never saturate yourself.

A library is a great place to catch up on books and art publications. Your journey through the zillion books and shelves of a library will be absolutely magical.
A library is a great place to catch up on books and art publications. Your journey through the zillion books and shelves of a library will be absolutely magical. | Source
This is a picture of the State Library of Victoria on Swanston St in Melbourne CBD.
This is a picture of the State Library of Victoria on Swanston St in Melbourne CBD. | Source

3) Update yourself regularly about the latest in the world of art

Whether you prefer surfing online, attending museums and art galleries, watching installations for hours or rummaging through the library at a landmark venue like MoMA in New York, Louvre in Paris or Tate in London, the point is to update yourself regularly. Every genuine connoisseur has a fire in his/her belly to know about what's happening in the art world this very second. The best way to train yourself to become an art connoisseur is to follow an organized structure or a routine to update yourself – keep fixed hours.

  • Zero in on your favorite art related website and keep checking regularly for news and updates.
  • Go to your local library and spend hours and days rummaging through various reads in the Arts section.
  • Don't just visit museums – Spend entire days going through a museum from top to bottom.
  • Go to Art galleries and attend different exhibitions and screenings.
  • Join a group of like minded folks or simply make a friend who is into arts. Your conversations will be magical!

4) Record and revisit your notes

Let's look at an example of a wine connoisseur. A wine drinker will mature into being a wine connoisseur not just by sampling a thousand wines in six months. It would probably be impossible to even remember the taste of each one. A die-hard connoisseur will take notes to quickly jot down how a particular wine tasted, the type of wine glass that was most apt for the wine and so on.

As a beginner art connoisseur, the key is to take notes whenever there's an interesting find, an unusual suspect or just an observation good enough to remember. Records go a long way in building a connoisseur's memory and mental database. Once you're mastered the art of recording and note taking, you'll be at utmost comfort to go back and revisit your notes. This will further enhance your recall power about what you had learnt before and help you reproduce it at the correct moment.

Go spend time in places like an art gallery where you can catch up with other art lovers and engage in intriguing conversations with them.
Go spend time in places like an art gallery where you can catch up with other art lovers and engage in intriguing conversations with them. | Source

5) Engage with other art connoisseurs: Speak, opine and discuss art

Once you have attained a basic level of art literacy – something as basic as being able to differentiate a Baroque piece of furniture from a contemporary, being able to spot an Art Deco monument when you see it or having an understanding about classics beyond Picasso and Dali. After that, your next step would be to start mingling with real people of the art world. If you think that would require you to apprentice at a gallery, so be it.

As an art connoisseur, opining on art is extremely important and the best way to learn the technique of conversing on art is only by actually being on the field itself. Attend art forums, seminars, auctions, listen to interviews of art critics on the internet and learn how to hold your own in the world of art.

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