Why do we go to vernissages? I thought as I observed the crowd at the Zeitwille opening. It was a typical vernissage crowd. Well dressed, less well dressed, old and young (more young this time around, though) and the occasional journalist taking notes in front of the pictures. But in general, apart from the journalists who are obviously there for work, what are people’s reasons for going to vernissages? Because they know the artist or are friends with the artist’s parents? To see and be seen? Because they happened to pass by? Did they come for the free drinks perhaps? Or because they are genuinely interested in art?
I guess all of the above. Some probably stop by for the free sparkling wine, others because they are friends of the artist or friends of friends of the gallerist, and a handful might also show up because they want to be seen at a perceived high-end event or simply because they were in the neighbourhood that evening. Others in turn, take a genuine interest in fresh artwork.
All of these are legitimate and I’m not being judgemental about any of them, that’s not the point. What I want to get at is that there is, I think, there is one more motive that unites all of us that attend exhibition openings: a crave for art. We crave for something that can communicate with us not in the banal way of newspaper communications but more subtly, more challengingly. Something that can throw a sparkle at our life and say “Hi there, light up!” I think we all long or hope to experience art the way we have read that it can be experienced, to be impressed the way we have heard that art can impress, and to feel those emotions that we believe, deep down, that art can actually provoke. So when we get the chance, whatever the pretext might be, we’re happy to go to a vernissage.
Sadly, a lot of artists have lost the ability to communicate with the audience. I think quite a bit about how that happened and why. At some point, artists withdrew to an internal, almost circular dialogue where few non-artist outsiders partake. The provocative, ugly art portrayed by the media as the only thing the contemporary art scene was concerned with, did a lot to cut the chord between the artist and the general audience, even though most artists actually produce quite likeable things. Artists themselves did little to preserve their line of communication.
The audience also has its part of the blame for the apparent lack of communication between artists and audience. In our longing for emotional art, we ceaselessly seek THE painting and we are disappointed by everything that doesn’t live up to the expectations.
It’s just that art isn’t like that. Far from all art is mind-blowing. In fact, most of it isn’t and expecting to find that one piece that sets you completely out at a random vernissage, is a bit like expecting to find a Michelin-starred meal in your office canteen. It might happen, but the odds are it won’t.
We still need to eat every day, though, Michelin or not, and it’s by going through a variety of tastes that we discover what we like and dislike. It’s the same with art. You need to consume it, and consume a lot of it, to find out what you like and what you don’t.
I think we need art, not in the same acute way as we need food, but we still need that alternative way of communication, And the more galleries you visit, the more vernissages you make your way into, the more likely you are to one day stand in front of that one painting that speaks directly to you, that one composition of acrylic, oil, canvas and colours that makes the world around you disappear and your head spin and leaves you amazed at the strength of the emotions it expresses.
Until that day comes – happy vernissages.
by Eva-Kristin Urestad Pedersen