No matter the time of year, hosting guests can be an overwhelming ordeal. Aside from all the preparation, choosing the hors d’oeuvres, and selecting the right playlist, you also want to make sure people are having a good time. There’s nothing worse than a lull in the party with nothing to talk about. There is, however, a very simple solution to this problem: abstract art.

A mosaic hanging in a living room to demonstrate an example of abstract art.

While this may seem unconventional, it’s a great way to get people talking. With the right piece of abstract art, your guest’s minds can wander and discussion will naturally ensue. Thought-provoking art that leaves its interpretation to the individual is the perfect conversation starter.

What is Abstract Art?

Simply put, abstract art is any unconventional expression through an artistic medium. This can include painting, sculpting, installations, and any number of other creations. One can argue that it has been around since humans began making art. Speaking in modern terms, however, no one can quite agree on when exactly abstract art began. Generally, it is attributed to Wassily Kandinsky for his painting Composition V in the early 1900s.

Composition V (1911) by Wassily Kandinsky

While “abstract” is a specific genre of art, there are countless varieties within this category. Some of the more widely-known versions include cubism and expressionism, while you can also find op art and color field painting under the abstract style as well.

Abstract Art in Your Home

Color Blocking with a Pop of Color

If your home’s style is more traditional or leans toward minimalism, abstract art that features color blocking is usually a safe choice to add to your decor. Choose a palette with bright, vibrant shades to complete the look.

How to get the conversation started: Try asking guests what they see when they first view the artwork. Does their interpretation evolve over time? What do they think about the color choices? Is the color-blocking pattern appealing to them or do they prefer a different style?

Feature a Piece with Complementary Colors

Without diving too much into color theory, complementary colors are shades that are found on opposite sides of the color wheel. These hues are meant to contrast one another in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. Finding an abstract print with colors that fall into the same or opposite family of those that already exist in your space will make for a brilliant artistic display.

How to get the conversation started: While it’s a simple question, asking guests what they would call the different shades in the abstract art can be an interesting exercise. While you may perceive shade as blue, they may think it is green. Some people may answer with a simple color, such as purple, while others will get more specific, naming it as lavender or periwinkle. You can also ask guests about their preferred color palettes for design and which shades appeal to them most.

Opt for Abstract Art That’s Understated

A simple piece of monochromatic abstract art hangs above a brown chair with a colorful patterned pillow.

Abstract art can be dramatic and eye-catching, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the focal point of your space. Even so, there is beauty in the simplicity that abstract art can inspire. If you prefer clean lines and crisp colors, consider featuring an understated piece in your space.

How to get the conversation started: Ask guests what they see in the work and offer your own interpretation. What is their favorite aspect of the work? Is there a texture or pattern to note?

Abstract Portraits

If you’re looking for a piece of abstract art that’s more personal, you can commission a portrait in the artistic style you enjoy most. Whether it’s a family portrait, a tribute to a beloved pet, or an homage to the person you idolize most, opting for an abstract take on the image can make for a treasured finished product.

How to get the conversation started: Have the original image the piece is based on handy to compare and contrast with guests. Ask them what they think of the artist’s vision for the artwork or share a memory you associate with the composition.

An Intriguing Focal Point

A piece of abstract art comprised of varying colors and swirled patterns hangs above a dark brown leather couch.

Hang a piece of art in your space that guests won’t be able to ignore. With art that isn’t immediately recognizable, guests will be drawn closer to have a better look. Choose a piece that contrasts in style or color from the rest of your decor for a truly showstopping effect.

How to get the conversation started: Allow guests some time to explore the art on their own before jumping in. Ask them how they interpret the piece, what images they see, or what it reminds them of. Share your take on the piece or the different feelings it evokes from you day to day to see how it varies from person to person.

A New Take on Something Familiar

Abstract art is all about redefining perceptions and exploring the ways in which our minds work. Some styles of art manage to blend that fine line between realism and expressionism. These types of work are great for getting people to feel confident while discussing art and keeping the dialogue going.

How to get the conversation started: Consider discussing the artist’s use of negative space, otherwise known as the areas of the composition where there isn’t anything (or at least anything of note). Comment on what makes the piece look realistic and what makes it more abstract. Ask if they prefer artwork that portrays a real-life image or if they enjoy interpreting all that abstract art can be.

Final Talking Points

No matter the type of art or person you’re speaking with, there are a few topics of art discussion that a novice art viewer can tackle. For instance, you can talk about the subject of the painting–what do they consider to be the subject? Is there one clear subject or are there multiple points of focus?

A piece of abstract art displayed in a living room with a blue and pink color scheme.

It can also be entertaining to bring symbolism into the conversation. What do different aspects of the composition mean to them? How do different backgrounds and experiences play into the interpretation of symbolism in art?

Last but not least, it’s okay–actually, better–if you don’t agree on everything or anything at all to do with the artwork. Different viewpoints based on varied experiences can sometimes bring two people closer together. Not only will you get to know them better, but you’ll have more to talk about during future encounters.