Art Appreciation as a Learned Competence: A Museum-based Qualitative Study of Adult Art Specialist and Art Non-Specialist Visitors

  • Rajka Bračun Sova
Keywords: art appreciation, adult museum visitors, art specialists, art non-specialists, competence


Since Bourdieu, it has been argued that art appreciation requires “knowledge”. The focus of this qualitative study was to examine art appreciation as a learned competence by exploring two different groups of museum visitors: art specialists and art non-specialists. The research was conducted at Moderna galerija in Ljubljana. Twenty-three adults were recruited and accompanied during their visit to the museum. Participants were requested to “think out loud”, which meant to talk about what they saw, thought, and felt about the artworks. There was a short interview conducted with each participant before entering the museum to gain insight into their art-related and museum-visiting experience. The analysis of the data revealed that some processes of art appreciation were similar within the two groups. Both art specialists and art nonspecialists interact with museum objects physically and intellectually; they see contents and formal qualities as a whole; they respond emotionally to artworks; appreciation includes their personal experience; they search museum interpretation/information for their understanding. Some noticeable differences were found. Art specialists respond to artworks with more understanding and are willing to put more effort into art appreciation, whereas art non-specialists respond with less understanding and put less effort into art appreciation. This paper focuses on the differences between the two groups; reflective and spontaneous 
appreciation of art, objective and subjective appreciation of art and the effort put into art appreciation. The paper ends with a discussion of the implications of the study for the teaching of art and museum education.


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