Anna Sadovskaya: I don't own the fine arts

By Anna Sadovskaya, Daily Fine Arts Columnist
Published March 10, 2014

When I was little and didn’t want the apple offered to me as a snack, I’d sneak into the kitchen and slide across the floor to the pantry where I’d eat every apple Chupa Chups. If I was bored of the classical music CD my grandmother was playing, I’d flip to an FM station and dance around to Hoku. We’re taught to take things — to make the world our oyster, to find our niche, to hold on to things that matter.

This intangible need to continuously achieve maximum gratification prompted everyone to go out into the wild and bring back things like music, TV, film, video games, Monopoly and Beethoven.

And while musicals and novels have cultivated an immense following, the stiff upper-browed sisters symphony concerts, museum exhibitions and theater performances have been labelled stand-offish — meant only for the sophisticated socialites who attend the Whitney Biennial, or something you go to when you want to impress someone with your knowledge of culture.

You can’t hold a painting the same way you can a book. You can’t sing along to Chopin’s piano concertos. You can’t dance with Diana Vishneva.

It’s not only the lack of interaction. Though it’s true that paintings don’t say sassy things à la Harry Potter, and orchestras don’t encourage mosh pits, it’s not the one-sided experience that ruins fine arts for some. It’s the lack of ownership — what’s the point of appreciating something you can’t touch, you can’t own.

“This is my song,” said every girl at every party.

Something about screaming out “I LOVE THIS INTERLUDE” isn’t as appealing at a symphony concert — there’s something stagnant in asserting your passion for a painter. You can love Picasso more than Dali, but you can’t dance faster or sing louder or watch the same painting on repeat until you know each line by heart. There’s an upper bound — a ceiling you reach with your appreciation.

The desire for ownership is hard to suppress — why observe when you can covet? The inherent style of participating in the fine arts is removed, requiring a passive participation that doesn’t allow you to make it your own. There’s no way to express your favoritism; you stand and admire each painting the same.

My grandma doesn’t agree. She asserts her passion with vigor, attending every exhibition opening and gallery show with enthusiasm, so as to show everyone just how much she loves the fine arts.

“This is so my genre of art,” said my grandma every day of her life.

But that’s not ownership. It’s a following, a need to keep up with the ever-changing world, digesting every bit of art possible.

It’s obsessive, and yet it doesn’t hold the same value as reading and re-reading the first book that made you realize that nothing in the world matters.

And yet, this lack of ownership grants a momentary reprieve from the day-to-day world. Standing in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and realizing you’ll never see anything else like it is humbling. It’s clarity that’s hard to achieve elsewhere. Anyone can own a copy of “Harry Potter”; the same’s not true for Van Gogh’s work.

I go to museums so I don’t have to vie for attention — I don’t have to feel like I need to prove my love for a certain painting over the other or how well I know an artist. I don’t own anything at a symphony concert except my ticket — I don’t owe anyone an explanation of why each piece is exactly like my life.