Is there a minimum age to appreciate contemporary art ? Young children and teenagers are not part of the usual population of contemporary art exhibition venues and fairs and yet many studies show that making children aware of art has many virtues. Indeed, children are blessed with an immense creativity that awareness of art can, amongst many other things, allow them to preserve into adulthood. Because of their innocence, they can also teach us adults to look at art differently. Why should you bring your children to see art ?
Pablo Picasso said it very well :
“In every child there is an artist. The problem is to know how to stay an artist when growing up.”
It seems that childhood is the age of supreme sensibility and spontaneity that are so crucial to appreciating and creating art. Most of the great artists of our time benefitted from some exposure to art in their childhood – the little Jean-Michel Basquiat was a member of the Brooklyn Museum and went there regularly. In all logic, the earlier someone is introduced to art, the more he or she develops the keys to understanding and relating to diverses artistic practices but also the message and claims of artists.
What are the favorable effects of exposing a child to art ? Studies prove that artistic activities push the development of emotional as well as social skills. Visiting an exhibition and looking at artworks do not require a particular intelligence and nonetheless allow one to draw upon observational skills. Children are very good at remembering images and looking at them, copying them if not manipulating them spawns a multitude of reflections. Of course, this also encourages the child to get his or her hands dirty and make his or her own creations.
Pablo Picasso and his daughter, Paloma
Pottery, judo, dance… Why not art history ? Under the impulsion of public initiatives but also private ones, art history is increasingly considered as an extra-curricular activity in its full right. De facto, in big cities for now, there are a few offers related to artistic discovery for young ones, and even starting at age 5. In Paris, since 2015, Art Kids Paris offers an array of visits adapted for kids. This young company developed its basic formula with guided tours in “traditional” cultural venues like the Louvre. As of late, the idea is also to open children to contemporary creation with a new program, “My Little Curator” which provides gallery and artist workshop tours… (More information here). Some museums schedule entire afternoons dedicated to children, like the Musée Bourdelle, or throw art introduction workshops, like the Musée Herold.
And what happens when you are left alone with a child for a visit… what can you do to make him or her make the best of it ? In order to engage a dialogue between the child and artwork, the best approach is to tell a story and bring up simple questions. What do you think about this work ? Which one do you prefer ? Situating the artwork in time and space is all you need to do when it comes to facts… The goal is to stimulate the child’s curiosity. In fact, to allow a child’s artistic awakening, all there is to do is… simply awaken as well !