Visual Arts Centre

Art Buzz: How to Appreciate Art?

Have you ever went to a museum and felt really lost? Many thoughts may flood your head –Where do you begin? How do you approach an artwork? Indeed, it all boils down to the same question — How to appreciate Art?

Louvre Museum in France

To many, museums always appear intimidating at the first glance – with all the pieces pristinely displayed in a gallery of white walls. Coupled with that, some pieces are covered with glass boxes with bright lights shining on the works. Indeed, it is no wonder that some of us would fear visiting galleries.

Whether you are an artist, an art appreciator or clueless about art, don’t worry! Here is your guide to appreciating art, or more specifically, artworks!


1. DESCRIBE: What do you see?

First and foremost, ask yourself the nature/medium of the work before you. Is it a painting, a sculpture, a sketch, a performance, a film or an installation? After all, the medium of an artwork is what it is made of.


Next, view the work from afar – look at it in totality. What is the size of the work in relation to you? Following which, think about the size of the work – why is it big, or why is it so small?

Afterwards, get up close and personal! Go closer and take a look at the artwork – observe all the details of the work, look at the way things are presented.

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh

Finally, identify the subject matter – what did the artist paint? Find what you can recognise in the work, and note how the artist presented it. Is it painted realistically or abstracted?


Elements of Art

Another technique you can use in your journey to appreciating art is to observe the visual elements of the artwork. The lines, shapes, forms, space, colours, tone and texture of the artwork.

When you observe each element, think about its properties:

Lines: Is it straight or curvy? Thick or thin? Horizontal or vertical? Smooth or broken?

Shapes: Are they geometric or organic?

Forms: Are they forming recognisable objects? Are they carved from something?

Space: How is the space in relation to the artwork? Is the artwork dense or scattered? Is there a sense of perspective?

Colours: What is the colour palette used? Is it muted or is it vibrant? Is the colour palette limited or extensive?

Tone: Is there more areas of light or dark? Are there harsh shadows?

Texture: Does the work have a smooth or rough finish? Does the surface have patterns or is it plain?


2. Analysis: How do I understand what I’m seeing?

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Look at the arrangement of the visual elements in the painting – how does it make you feel? What do you think about?

Find for icons, motifs or any recognisable objects in the painting. This may help you learn more about the work. Some artworks have recognisable images that may be used to read and understand the work.


Room 6 by Mark Rothko

Some abstract works, may not even have a subject matter at all!

** That being said, not all artworks are meant to have deeper meanings. Some artists do make works simply because they enjoy it or just for the aesthetic value!**

3. Evaluation: Do I appreciate the true meaning of this piece of art work?

Artworks come in all forms, shapes and sizes. How do you judge a piece of work, whether it is good or not? This very much depends on the individual and what you are looking out for. Innately, we all have our own personal preferences. You may be an appreciator of a certain form of art, and not a fan of another. Don’t worry, it is alright (in fact, awesome!)  to have your own say in what you enjoy and what you don’t!

Sometimes, it is hard to appreciate art works. There may be cases where the artwork simply does not appeal to you, be it aesthetically or on a deeper level. It is alright if you don’t enjoy a piece of work – just with other things in life, it’s hard to relate to everything, or to even find things to suit your taste. The consumption of a piece of work really depends on the viewer too! Your background, values, traits, experiences and personal biases changes the way you view an art piece.

Moving forward, it is great if you could try your best to learn more about the pieces you have reservations about! Maybe then, you will be able to see the good in those pieces.

4. Interpretation: What does the work really mean?


After looking at the artwork, you may still not understand the true meaning of it. It is now time to think harder! Usually, near the art piece, there would be a caption stuck on the wall that writes about the art piece. This caption is called the exhibit label. It tells you more about the artwork presented.

Remember to pick one of these up if you see it in the gallery!

Check out the tour times and join in for an informative tour!

In most galleries, you will may also be able to find exhibition guide brochures, audio guides, texts and docents (gallery guides) around! This is your best chance to learn more about the artists and the artworks’ background. These texts usually write about the idea behind the work, and the artist’s intentions.

To find out more about an artist and his body of works, one can also search online on popular sites such as:

  1. Artforum International
  2. Artsy

Why should you read up more on the artist himself?

Learning about the artist can allow you to understand the background, context and historical significance of his works. It can also help you understand what inspires or influences him, allowing you to better relate to and appreciate the art works presented.

Find out more about artists online! Artsy – Liu Xiaodong’s Biography

Thereafter, it is YOUR turn to shine! After understanding the artwork, you are now ready to make a decision – Do you like the work? As the saying goes, “to each its own”, everyone has their own preferences. It’s okay if you don’t like or are unable to appreciate an art work, keep venturing and exploring! You may find something else that suits you and that you appreciate.

Are you ready to view an exhibition with a fresh perspective? Are you ready to put your art appreciation skills to use?

Come check out our gallery (adjacent to our studio) – do check out the upcoming exhibitions we have on our site!

Ideas for this article are adapted from:

  1. National Gallery Singapore – The Honest Guide to Seeing Art
  2. Felt Magnet 
  3. Art Space

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