How Not to Be an Art Hater

Image Photoshopped by the author

As my Piscean nature and sluggish thyroid would suggest, I am fairly susceptible to bouts of ennui.  This summer (if summer began in March), I’ve struggled with attendance and indifference, often preferring leisurely activities of the paddleboating/drinking variety to the stale cool of galleries.

I complained recently to a friend, saying “ugggh, I just can’t get into art right now, you know?”

She diagnosed me succinctly as having “first world problems.”

I stomped away indignantly as my loafer footprints slowly filled with discarded organic melon soda.  She tried to catch me on her 10 kg Danish bike, but I ducked into a queer café and read reviews of the film Meek’s Cutoff until my sinuses began to ache and I went home to nap.*

*Meek’s Cutoff is really beautiful.

Life in Berlin, while still Triple-A, isn’t always easy.  But I think of it as a rational city, with people and transit being equally punctual.  In it, discussions of nuclear power are encouraged and Ms. Bachmann is just an old lady living in Britz with winking garden gnomes in case anyone questions her whimsy.  Mr. Boehner is the curmudgeonly mailman who wears green vests and yells at me on my bike.

Berlin is both an escape from American crazy and an island of art production (as opposed to art sales), hosting over 400 galleries and 20,000 artists.**

**Although I suspect the second figure might be a bit low (not every artist heralds their arrival to the German authorities).

But with so much art (first world problem alert), how does one maintain the magic?  I’ve tried bath salts, brisk walks and smiling at museum attendants, but nothing is really doing “it.”  I’ve always admired Jerry Saltz because in his columns he seems genuinely interested and surprised by the art he encounters/chooses to write about.  But how does he do it?  Saltz sees, like, 30 to 40 shows a week, which seems really crazy to me.  Even crazier is that he is on the Piscean cusp, obviously deriving his energy non-astrologically.

In a feeble homage to Mr. Saltz, I have devised 6 rules for myself that I feel will increase my viewing enjoyment; rules I hope to put into effect during my blog tenure here.

1.     Stop being so pretentious about not being pretentious.  If you like Tilda Swinton, Antony and the Johnsons, and Lars Von Trier, then you should have more tolerance for what you deem “affected” art and, by proxy, its bespectacled audience.

2.     Cast a wider net for what includes “art.”  The wild boar jousting and committed character play at the Mittelaltermarkt (Renaissance Fair) do indeed qualify.

3.      Don’t get stuck in really bad basement performances without a clear exit; it only sucks up your bad performance head-quota.  After last week’s sadomasochistic homage to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” you only have 20 minutes remaining.

4.     Think of new artists who excite you and why.  Examples: Alicja Kwade, Klara Liden, Richard Hawkins.

5.     Stop watching pirated versions of mediocre comedies like The Beaver. Either watch a Werner Herzog movie or Glitter, not these hypnotically inane exercises in Wes Anderson “quirkiness.”

6.     Vary your exhibitions; don’t only attend youngish contemporary spaces.  Example: this amazing show about faces in the Renaissance.

7.     Go to more concerts, because the underground music scene in Berlin offers up some amazing performers and visuals.  Recent example: Mary Ocher.

8.     Stop getting mad at tourists. It’s just bad karma.


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