Gallery openings. Immediately I think: white walls, people with clinking glasses, fashion, quiet conversation… oh yeah, and art. Often the exhibiting artists are available to those who attend to ask questions and share about their work. So, what do you ask those artists? I hope to share with you quality questions today so that you can learn more about the artwork you are appreciating! And, if you happen to have deep pockets and hope to invest in this art, you should be able to ask good questions to ensure your money is well spent!
(And all you IB Art students out there. Yeah, you. These are great questions to consider and prepare answers for your exams. Take notes!)
I would first open with specific questions about the exhibit you are viewing. Artists can be nervous too you know! Ground the early questions in details and it will be easier to get the larger questions flowing.
Is there an artwork here you are most proud of? Why?
This is a great opening question. Remember in many gallery environments artists are trying to sell their work so they may be reluctant to pick out one piece, but I wouldn’t trust an artist who doesn’t have a favorite. Each artwork is individual and unique. I can still tell you which artwork is my favorite. I have a few, actually. Two stand out most for me in my growth as an artist. Guess you’ll have to see me at a gallery opening to find out which two! 🙂
If there is a particular artwork you like you can start asking specific questions about it. This is a great question that is really hard to answer. I always ask my students to try and articulate this.
What inspires you? What inspired this piece/idea?
Sometimes my inspiration isn’t clear to me until after I’ve made the work. We easily forget that artmaking is a nonverbal process so it isn’t until an artist has time and space from a work is it easier to articulate. But, there is always inspiration. Some artists decide to leave the deciphering of their work and the ideas behind it to the critics. I think responsible artists take time to reflect and consider their reasons for creating art. Hopefully they can articulate this to you. Do you really want to buy an artwork from someone who can’t?
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
This is always interesting to ask. Some painters I’ve read about will swear by a certain color and brand of paint. Someone else might have a paintbrush they love. For me? My journal/sketchbook.
Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?
Some artists will consciously, or subconsciously, make use of a particular element or principle of art as their focus, or as their means to communicate within the artwork. Do they see this themselves? Do you agree with what they see? If they are smart, they might turn this question around and ask you what you see.
How did you start making art?/Why do you make art?
An artist’s backstory can be very interesting and offer more context on the work you are viewing. Often it is a story behind the work or artist that can bring it more worth in my own eyes. I’m sure it helps with sales, too. 🙂
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: What other questions might be great fodder for conversation? Share below.