Two Kinds of Art

Those of us who are engaged in art are familiar with he question: Why is that art? The question comes from folks who are either very new to engaging in art, or folks who generally have not become interested in art at all.

It has taken me a long time* to figure out that there are two kinds of art:

  • Art for people who are interested in art
  • Art for people who are not interested in art

People who are interested in art generally enjoy finding new art, new challenges, getting new information, having to contend with the unfamiliar (and that could be ancient art as well as contemporary art).

People who are not interested in art (I think that’s OK, by the way) just don’t have the same purposes for art. The art for people who are not interested in art tends to be stuff that fits comfortably into home decor—because that is the mosgenerally accepted function for art.

My friend and colleague Terri Hopkins illustrates the idea like this:

Imagine that you are a real baseball fan, you’ve been following the game since you were a kid, you know all the current and past statistics, baseball is almost a religion for you. Imagine you have a friend who recently moved here from abroad, and just doesn’t get the “baseball thing.” So you take him to a game. It’s a beautiful summer day, the stands are full, and, wonder of wonders, there’s a great “pitchers’ duel.” And one of the pitchers pitches a no-hitter! The game ends 1-0. As you leave you say to your new friend, “Wow. That was great!” And he replies, “What do you mean? Nothing happened.”

Hard to have baseball for people who aren’t interested in baseball.

*One of my favorite sayings: You get too soon old and too late smart.


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