The Mystery of Modern Art

On Thursday, I went through to Glasgow to carry out some research for my dissertation. (Many thanks to Vagabond Voices.) While there, I thought it would be worthwhile to visit another new place:

12: The Gallery of Modern Art

The Gallery of Modern Art (or GoMA) is situated in Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, and I’ve only walked past it around 500 times without ever going in. It is free to visit, and I feel like you always take something away from a cultural place, so I finally decided to go inside.


I know I promised to work on my photography, but here is a rather dreadful photo of the outside.

Now, I should start with a disclaimer: I am not a massive fan of art. I go to galleries, but only tend to find a few pieces in the entire building that I like. The Mona Lisa is the single most overrated thing on the planet (closely followed by Justin Bieber and peanut butter). And, in my opinion, museums full of portraits and paintings of scenes from the Bible might be one of the few cultural places where you only take away the sense that you have wasted an hour of your life, rather than gained anything positive. It’s a shame, because all of these paintings are fantastic if you really think about it. How many of us have difficulty drawing convincing stick men? Yet there are just so many that we become immune to the talent of the artist and bored by what we see.

When it comes to modern art, I have a slightly different opinion, but it’s still likely to enrage a few readers. My favourite encounter with it was the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It was a brilliant day out, but not because we were impressed by the art; it was because many of the pieces were so damn ridiculous. Call me a philistine if you wish, but this is not art:


It is two large, white squares, one of which is askew. Nor, in my opinion, is this art:


It is a coat stand, and a chair with a ball on it. Don’t even get me started on this:

You can see my friend is equally unimpressed. We came up with our own piece, which, if we had any kind of reputation in the modern art world, would be a clear masterpiece:

We shall call it ‘Working Lunch’ and it will represent the disillusionment of people in jobs they hate being forced to eat lunch quickly and work when they have headaches. Or we could call it ‘Coffee and Consumerism’ and the sad face represents how unhappy 70% of polystyrene is about its destiny as a mere container of hot beverages.

I don’t like to be mean, so I’m going to stop now! We all have our own opinions, and while I find that the majority of modern art is incredibly pretentious, there are many people who dislike literature for the same reason, while I’m dedicating my life to book publishing. To each his/her own. 

I will admit that I enjoyed the floor dedicated to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s work, because I like art that incorporates words. I bought another piece of text-based artwork (a tiny canvas) by Kelly Rae Roberts last week, and it’s beautiful. It’s expensive online, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it in our local Clintons (likewise to find Clintons reopened). Perhaps it’s because I love language, but that is the kind of art I can understand.

When it comes to modern art, I mostly just find it funny. It might not be the intended reaction, but at least it’s a positive one. There is a kind of genius and ridiculousness about it that I can appreciate (with certain pieces, anyway). Perhaps my favourite example, however, is found when you step outside the GoMA and see the familiar Duke of Wellington statue, with the equally familiar change made (and maintained) courtesy of some cheeky Glaswegian humour:

Bold fashion choice there.

How about you? What’s your opinion on modern art?


4 thoughts on “The Mystery of Modern Art

  1. Too Fond says:

    I lived in Glasgow for a year and visited this museum once, but I honestly remember nothing about it except the cone-headed statue out front (because I used to walk by it all the time). Now that we live in France, I haven’t been to the Centre Pompidou but sounds like I can give it a miss–I’m not a big fan of modern art, either.

  2. Charleen says:

    I have a strange relationship with art. I do like to go and sort of soak it in, but like you I don’t really connect with much of anything. So… do I really like it, or do I just feel proud of myself for doing something cultural?

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