Guide to Being an Art Snob



Here’s how to sound like you know what you’re talking about when walking around an art gallery or museum exhibit: a guide to being an art snob.

Lift a New York Times Description

Businessman reading newspaper outdoor

The city’s most iconic paper is chock-full of intellectual descriptions you can pass off as your own. For example, before your next dinner party, read this review of MoMa’s Picasso Sculptures exhibit, and casually refer to the collection as, “dizzyingly peripatetic.” You’re going to sound pretty freaking brilliant.

Better Yet: Just Read Reviews

Read The New York Times Art Section before you hit galleries and museums to get context into what you’re looking at. Perhaps you’ll come up with your own original opinion to share at your next dinner party.

Compare Art to an Obscure Musician


If you’re going to B.S. your way through understanding a work of art, keep your conversations in generally unfamiliar territories. A good place to start is an obscure musician: Jazz tends to be best due to its erraticism and formulaic ambiguity. Compare a painting to a Larry Coryell composition or a Roswell Rudd solo, and we guarantee heads will be nodding, even if eyes are glazing over.

Better Yet: Actually Look for Music in Works You Don’t Understand

Looking at art in comparison to other mediums is actually an effective way to articulate your thoughts on a piece. When viewing an exhibit, ask yourself, “If this piece were a song, who would sing it?”

Disagree with Everyone

Young Couple Having Argument At Home

Be a contrarian: Disagree with the masses and swear by your stance as loudly as possible. A good place to start might be promoting Bjork’s recent MoMa exhibit, which was called, “An ill-conceived disaster,” by the Atlantic, and “a weirdly unambitious show,” by The Guardian.

Better Yet: Speak from the Heart

Develop an honest opinion, and even the most well-versed critic will respect you. If you thought looking at images of Bjork in crazy dresses and listening to her ethereal soundscapes was cool, then praise it.

Buy an Introductory Art Textbook

Young woman reading a book by fireplace

If you have a friend who went to art school, borrow one of his or her textbooks—Prebles’ Artforms is a good place to start—and get a general understanding of studio terms such as trompe l’oeil and chiaroscuro. This list of vocab words alone will act as conversation-interrupting fodder for years.

Better Yet: Take an Art Class

Sign up for a class or lecture* and gain meaningful insights into process, form and execution. You’ll have a whole new appreciation for every work of art you see, for the rest of your life. Pretty good use of time, no?

*Coursehorse is an excellent resource for finding classes on painting, photography, ceramics and more. It also posts special, custom tours of the city’s best museums. If you need booze to get you to an art lesson, try Paint Along NYC.

Dominate the Conversation

Group of friends eating out and looking at smartphone

Art snobs spout faux-intellectual thoughts as loudly as possible, drowning out any other opinions.

Better Yet: Listen and Learn

Listen to what your fellow art appreciators have to say: You could learn something. If you are wandering a exhibit by yourself, then eavesdrop. The city’s most interesting conversations are happening all around you.

“Art is just so commercial these days”

We get it, you’re tired of this hyper-capitalist world constantly looking to make profit through exploitive consumerist behaviors. $25 for a ticket to the upcoming Andy Warhol exhibition at the Whitney? In this economy? Absolutely not. “Art has become so commercial these days”.

Better Yet: Support local art.

You don’t need to splash your cash to support the NY art scene. Click your way through the trove of exhibitions and events listed on and find one that matches your occupy art ideology. But remember to tip your server when you undoubtedly grab your third cup of free chardonnay.

“That is so [insert French word no one understands]”

Sprinkling a little français into your vocabulary will undoubtedly elevate your social status when gallery-hopping down in the lower east side. “That pile of rocks in the corner have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, don’t you think?” Why French? Because it’s the language of love, cultural and art, bien sûr.

Better Yet: Use Adjectives You Mean

How does the art actually make you feel? What does it actually look like to you? Say the first thing that comes to your mind, and believe in your own opinion.

“They just don’t make them like they used to”

Do you ever feel like you were just born in the wrong decade? Maybe even the wrong century? *long sigh* As a full-fledged art snob you probably think that today’s art just isn’t like it used to be. Where’s the passion? Where’s the discipline? Where’s the aura? Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam took four years to create… and all today’s artists seem to do splatter paint on an empty canvas *long scoff*

Better Yet: Just go to the MET

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the States and the third most visited in the world. The museum’s collection spans Ancient Egypt, Roman, Greek, African – more than you could possibly pack into a single day. And there’s also around 13,000 pieces of contemporary and modern art if curiosity sets in (we won’t tell).

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