The Difference Between Good and Bad Abstract Art

Have you ever looked at a work of abstract art and thought to yourself “Huh, I don’t get it”?

Most people have. And that’s the point.

Abstract art is not meant to be instantly comprehensible. It’s meant to be intriguing and thought-provoking. It’s meant to plant a seed in your mind that grows over time.

That’s also why abstract art is such a great addition to your home decor, where you have a chance to see it, reflect on it, and sharpen your understanding of it, day after day.

But that doesn’t mean that all abstract art is good.

Just like with any genre of art, from photo-realistic portraits to graphic pop art, there is good abstract art and bad abstract art.

But how can you tell the difference?

Deep thought goes into good abstract art

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality.” —Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s quote gives us a window into what distinguishes good abstract art from bad abstract art. Good abstract art has a message, a concept, a “something.” Even though the technique may seem simple and haphazard, it emerges from a place of deep thought and great meaning.

You can see the same truth at work in all of the great abstract painters: Rothko, Matisse, Pollock, de Kooning. Their work is more than just paint arranged on a canvas. It’s an attempt to capture an emotional reality and a fundamental truth in a way that is not visually straightforward.


Good abstract art involves mastery

Visual art is a complex interplay of a ton of different factors: color, size, scale, proportion, juxtaposition, framing, composition…the list goes on and on.

Producing good art, including good abstract art, requires knowledge of all of this. An expert hand knows how to use these elements to create artwork that pulses with life and movement—artwork that leaps off the canvas.

Bad abstract art simply doesn’t have the same quality. An inexperienced or uninspired artist can put paint on canvas but they can’t infuse it with meaning and they can’t bring the kind of intention and control that is required to create a meaningful and memorable work of art.

How can you tell the difference between good abstract art and bad abstract art?

When it comes to separating good abstract art from bad abstract art, it’s really as simple as “If you know, you know.”

Here’s why.

Consider how you tell the difference between music and random noise.

You probably don’t have the words to articulate the difference (is it the beat? melody? timing?), but the inherent order and harmony of the music is undeniable, even to an untrained ear. You don’t have to be instructed on how to tell the two apart. You simply know right away what is music and what is noise.


You can approach abstract art in the same way. You don’t need to have a logical reason why you like something or not. Your natural taste will make itself known to you by the way you respond to the artwork. It will be natural, instinctive, and automatic. That’s where the deep thought and the mastery of the artist become apparent—in your immediate, I-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it reaction to it.

The bottom line? You really can trust your gut and intuition to help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

However, one word of advice we would offer is to give yourself time to react to an artwork before bringing judgment to it. Some abstract art is eye-catching and provokes an immediate emotional reaction. Other abstract art is more of a slow burn, requiring time to stir up something deep inside you.

So don’t just “look and run.” Take your time and give yourself a chance to form a reaction before deciding whether a piece of art speaks to you or not.

How to choose abstract wall art for your home

There is an entire world of abstract art out there, so how do you wade through it all to find the pieces that you want to display in your home?

There are a few approaches you can take that will narrow down your options.

Look for colors that go with your home

A tried-and-true method for choosing canvas art that will look right at home with your interior decor is to start with color. Look at your walls, furniture, and accessories and take note of the dominant color families. Then search for abstract art prints that will match or complement those colors.

Another solid approach is to go for abstract art prints that have a neutral black and white palette, which will fit in pretty much anywhere.


Consider how shapes can contribute to the atmosphere of your home

One of the best things about abstract art is that it often incorporates shapes, form, and movement that can dramatically change the mood and energy of a room.

If you want to add a little excitement to your interior design, you might choose a framed canvas with bold, energetic brushstrokes. Or if you prefer a more soothing effect, you might consider abstract canvas prints that feature softer, rounder elements.


Remember that artworks speak to each other

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of hanging artwork in groups or clusters to create a gallery wall.

What makes this approach so striking is that artworks speak to each other and create an effect that is more than the sum of its parts.

Try hanging multiple canvases that are all based around a theme, such as nature or animals. Or, for a truly personal and unique gallery wall, simply let your taste be your guide and select a variety of abstract art prints that move you on a deep level.

Find good abstract art prints that speak to you

Now that you have a sense of how to tell the difference between good abstract art and bad abstract art, why not browse our collection of abstract art prints?

We make it easy to decorate your home with stunning artwork. Simply choose your favorite prints, select your size and framing options, and we do the rest.

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