Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of Contemporary Art

“Ist das Kunst oder kann das weg?” is a popular German saying to mock something that is exactly the opposite of what is traditionally considered to be “art”. But someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure: What looks like a painting done by a first-grader to some might cost millions of dollars and be exhibited at museums all over the globe. Contemporary art is in a tough position – many people make fun of it without ever bothering to take a closer look at what this umbrella term refers to. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t ditch it altogether and might want to consider visiting an exhibition this semester break:

1. It’s diverse.

Art comes in many forms – it’s not just oil paintings and marble sculptures. Street art, video games and stage performances belong into the same category and in the end it is you who decides what you personally perceive as “art” or not. If you’re not the type who enjoys a rainy Sunday at a museum, well then don’t force yourself to go there. Jasmin Petritz, local artist and student at the University of Freiburg says that studying art at the State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe made her reconsider what she perceives as art. “My professors told me to stop trying so hard – I should stop attempting to create an artwork and just do whatever I felt like doing – and somehow that worked. Spending time with and surrounded by your work in the studio helps you to find your own artistic vision, which often changes over time.”

2. It’s something new.

Contemporary art often tries to break with traditional patterns of perception and makes you rethink what you perceive and how to interpret it. While seeing a realistic painting of a dog might impress you at first glance (“Hey, nice dog! The artist probably likes dogs.”) its familiarity may lead you to be too hasty. Here’s where contemporary abstract art comes in: Since you can not immediately put what you see into a category it makes you think about it in more detail – the shapes, colours and layers you see. What do you like about it, and why? Talking to other people can improve your vision – it allows you to see things in a new light. When was the last time you saw photographs that were layered manually and not photoshopped? Probably a long time ago – but that can change, if you want it to.

3. It’s a unique experience for each viewer.

One of the main reasons why contemporary or abstract art is so interesting is that it leaves a lot for the viewer/receiver to interpret. While some artworks speak to you others just don’t look interesting at all – and that’s perfectly fine. When I visited Jasmin’s latest exhibition “Drawing the Line” at Sparkasse Kenzingen one of the first drawings that attracted me was a set of lines that reminded of a mountain range. I talked to her about it and asked what was, which got me the ominous answer that “it is whatever you see in it”. Others didn’t interpret it the same way – some saw a receding coast line, others even just “a line”. Who you are changes how you experience art, so don’t worry if you don’t see what’s the fuss about some famous artist and challenge yourself to find out what you personally enjoy.

4. It’s something anyone can take part in and talk about.

Many people who are interested in art are also somewhat intimidated by the sheer variety of artworks, periods and artists that already exists. How can you keep up to that? And how can you talk to an artist without embarrassing yourself? Honestly – you can’t and you have to. Especially young artists like Jasmin are often just as interested in your interpretation as you are in their work. And if you feel like anyone could do what artists do – why don’t you try? You might end up producing up to 60 drawings in one day and then go through the difficult process of selecting the work you will present to the public – which, according to our source, is also fun because it allows you to take a new look at your own work and really take it in.

5. It’s cheap or even free (well, kind of.)

Let’s face it: most students won’t even consider buying original artworks and very often that is a sensible decision since our budgets are typically quite limited. Buying artworks can be extremely expensive – but very often it’s cheap or even free to visit performances or exhibitions. Check out Jasmin Petritz’s exhibition of drawings and photography “Drawing the Line” for free at Sparkasse Kenzingen until the 8th of April or see what’s currently going on at Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg for only 5€ (for students).

Contemporary art may be intimidating at first but the more time you spend dealing with it, the more your perception changes and allows you to see and understand it even further. As the artist explains: “And at some point you might even realise that Contemporary Art is more than weird shapes and colourful lines, especially when viewed from an art-historical perspective. And when you’re at that point, it all becomes even more interesting!”


Artist Jasmin Petritz in front of her work.

Learn more about the exhibition “Drawing the Line” by Jasmin Petritz here:


Find more exhibitions to check out at Museum für Neue Kunst Freiburg:


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