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ImageFirst published in Artflow Magazine Issue 8 Volume 2 August 2012.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream set a new record for art auction sales at Sotheby’s in New York when it was sold for $119.9m (£74m). In 2008, Francis Bacon’s Triptych (1976) was sold for $85.9m to oligarch Roman Abramovich. Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932) was sold for $106,482,500 at Christie’s in New York in 2010.

You wonder why those guys that go to Sotheby or Christie spent so much money on artworks. You wonder why people listen, let alone dance to music you find irritating even as a noise. You wonder why people adorn a fashion style and you think they are crazy?

On those notes, let me share with you what I call the Relativity of Art.

Unlike Science, the understanding of art is relative to the individual. To a five year old and a professor of art, 2+2=4. However, when you see a painting, the perception is different, when you listen to music, the appreciation is relative.

Art here does not literally mean painting; it is not limited to just designs but all CREATIVE endeavours. You see a fashion style everyone is craving about but you choose not to be moved. It’s something they like but you don’t. A passion they want to be associated with but you can’t be bothered. They liked it.  The maker of a creative work has put enough effort for self-expressions. If YOU don’t like it, someone else will VALUE it.

Understanding ART comes with these: Education, Experience, Exposure, Empathy and Evolvement.

While in Architecture School, Lecturers may want to make you adopt their style of art, it’s like not thinking outside the Box. If you want to pass, give them what they want.  You might be lucky to go unhurt when you think outside the box, guess they don’t see you as a design threat.  But if you express YOURSELF, you refuse to be put into that box of stereotype around you. You will be happy with yourself.

Just be yourself. Someone out there will appreciate your CREATIVE works.

In my 3rd year, I titled my design project ‘ile mogaji’ a Yoruba (language) word for Mogaji’s House. It was a terrace design project I wanted to personalise. Other classmates used the generic title: Terrace House but I guess I was different and I dearly paid for it. However, I had no regret. My classmates found it interesting but my juror said it was LOCAL. I got a D grade but I was happy. Even while I left School, some of my mates still refer to me as ‘ile mogaji’. I was happy and pleased with what I did and I can’t be bothered someone didn’t.

With a Master’s degree in Art, I can say my Education has helped me appreciate art more. You don’t just criticize anything. I was able to study different artists, their styles and approach. Then you understand their works better. You can’t compare the artistic knowledge of a graphics artist with a Doctor. The education makes a difference.  The Doctor may question the sale of an artwork for £2 million but a graphics student might not.

However, with experience, we understand art more. You appreciate the artists’ effort and you value it. I remembered my first visit in 2008 to the Tate Modern to see the installation art in the Turbine Hall. It was an experience I cherish till date. I was exposed to art, installation art on a large scale, none that I have seen before. The installation was titled TH.2058, is a larger-than-life model of a massive spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. 

You wonder how manage such project will be commissioned. I have visited the museum since 2008 every year to increase my understanding, trends and get more exposed.  Your education, experience and exposure make you have a different approach to creative works.

Empathy is the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. With empathy, you see from the artists’ perspective, not from a critic or a competitor, the sweat and anger they put into the work. By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

Working at Artflow Magazine, I have the privilege of meeting various artists, read their stories and get to know more about them. You know what they are going through, the fear of rejection, the hard work and someone will see those works and describe them as crap. To you something might be rubbish; it might lack creativity, that’s due to the level of your education and exposure.

With all these in mind and most importantly your interest and open mindedness, you EVOLVE into an art lover. You develop with interest and have a deeper feeling for creative works. Even if you don’t like it, you appreciate it. I am not a great fan of wedding photography, I prefer documentary or travel but I know about their efforts and investments involved in delivering a professional service.

As an art observer, your exposure and interest will determine how much you understand the works of art, how well you can relate with it and feel associated with it. It takes effort to appreciate works, look from the artist’s perspective, the message there in. With a Chinese poster, do you want to say it is not an artwork? Then ask a Chinese man looking at an English illustration.

The fact remains that some works may not appeal to you but remember it appeals to some other people, most importantly the artist. It takes effort and energy to get the work out from the brain, appreciate it and relate with it based on your understanding.