Why are most people skeptical about modern art?

Art is the expression of human imagination and creativity which is typically depicted in the form of visuals such as sculptures or paintings. Works of art produced by artists are supposed to be appreciated for their emotional power or beauty. While works of art have been appreciated for years, a lot of people seem to be getting skeptical about modern art.

For a long time, art was not questioned, it was simply appreciated for what it was. However, in recent years, art has come under attack due to what critics say is a general lack of skill. This may explains why a black square is hailed as a masterpiece according to contemporary art but in ordinary circumstances such work would be questioned and most likely dismissed.


According to an article published in the Art Education journal in 2008 titled Educational Tool in the Museum, some forms of modern art seem so far removed from the daily experience that they seem hard to understand. The article questions why art from foreign cultures and modern art seems difficult to understand.

While it is easy to understand why art from a foreign culture may be difficult to understand, why would this apply to art from people living among us? We share the same broad context as artists, so why would such works be hard to appreciate?

Critics of modern art say that it is not about communicating ideas. Rather, it seems to be about showing yourself and trying to prove that you are better or more complicated compared to others. In an attempt to rationalize their work and put it into a broader societal context through writing, it turns out be incomprehensible. These artists seems too keen to sound smart in an attempt to make it confusing so that viewers are unable to understand it. Here, the logic is to make art almost impossible for viewers to criticize it.


During a visit to the New Museum of contemporary art in New York City, a visitor casually commented that most of the work seemed like pieces painted by blindfolded preschoolers. In reply, another visitor said that one of the pieces seemed like something you would find in the recycling bin.

In all fairness, are these people just skeptical about modern art? Are they ignorant and unable to appreciate modern art? Many modern artists would readily agree. However, one art world insider has confessed that the term art has been applied to so many things that it has ceased to mean anything anymore.

To drive this point home, consider this: About 10 years ago researchers in the U.S took 2 groups of 3 year-olds and showed them some blobs of paint on canvas. One group was told that the marks were caused by paint that was accidentally spilled on the canvas. Another group was informed that the blobs were marks that were carefully created for them. The group that was told that the blobs were works of art started to refer to these marks as painting.


Due to the inability of modern viewers to appreciate or understand contemporary art, stories abound about great artwork ending in waste bins or charity stores. In one instance, museum cleaners were told to clean up after an evening exhibition. Unknown to the cleaners, Sara Goldschmied and EleonoraChiari had presented a scene depicting the aftermath of a party. Their exhibition involved empty wine bottles which were scattered everywhere.

To the cleaners, this was not art but trash. So, they swept away the work in its entirety and put it into a waste bin. In another instance, waste disposal personnel threw out an AnishKapoor. To these cleaners, these works did not resemble art. Instead, they screamed “trash” to all the viewers.

These incidences raises fundamental questions. When ordinary people look at a piece of art and sees something that is not worth keeping, do they need to be reprimanded or enlightened to help them understand and appreciate their work? Or should the audience appreciate the work as a piece of art but question its quality which allow them to dismiss it as rubbish?

Modern artists seem to hold that every work has inherent beauty. They argue that all you need is to look at the work from a different perspective. As a result, they say that art cannot be subjected to any objective standards. The problem with this approach is that the question of “what is art?” becomes almost impossible to answer.

Ultimately, given what science teaches about the functioning of the human mind, it is not surprising why most people are skeptical about modern art. It is therefore not surprising why such works of art fail to communicate the intentions of the artist and end up in the trash bin.


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