Monday, August 03, 2009

What do you look for in a museum?

From the New York Times: At Louvre, Many Stop to Snap, but Few Stay to Focus, by Michael Kimmelman:

...[T]ourists now wander through museums, seeking to fulfill their lifetime’s art history requirement in a day, wondering whether it may now be the quantity of material they pass by rather than the quality of concentration they bring to what few things they choose to focus upon that determines whether they have “done” the Louvre. It’s self-improvement on the fly.

I've always had a hard time going to galleries with other people. I like to go at my own particular pace. Sometimes I want to spend a long time with pieces that draw me in, and other times, I just want to whirl through. I'm not very adventuresome in my artistic tastes. I was one of those freshman college kids who had Monet posters on her wall, and it took me years to appreciate Picasso and Pollack. These days, I still gravitate toward the Italian Renaissance artists.

Bede and I are pretty fortunate in that our ways of visiting galleries are compatible. When we went to Italy for our honeymoon, we realized that the Uffizi gallery in Florence was so overwhelming that we would have to find a focal point in order to be able to begin to appreciate the treasures before us. That was when we decided to look out for Mary Magdalene in art. I wrote about this "I Spy" exercise four years ago in the blog post Magdalene in Florence and Rome.

What about you? How do you experience art? Do you prefer the ajoining gift shop? Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., my favorite gift shop was the one in the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History because of its fabulous collections of paper-dolls. The Smithsonian Natural History museum's gift shop was great, too, because of all the stones and bones.


Lone Star Ma said...

Well, I do like gift shops. Thus far I have been more of a science and history museum sort of girl (I like them with lots of interactive children's stuff), but I like art museums well enough. I like them with lots of children's stuff, too, but yes - there are things I don't much care to look at and things I want to spend a lot of time with. I can't really predict what they are going to be, mostly. I have no real art history education so my experiences are pretty much totally naive. I am curious and like to see stuff, though.

Steff said...

In Australia a "museum" is more of a showplace for science with stuffed animals and information about scientific processes such as digestion or how the mind works as opposed to a "gallery" which is what your description sounds like. I love the Melbourne museum basically because it is so wonderfully kid friendly and that is the reason i most likely have not gone to a gallery - I am just not that sure how much the gilrs wouldlike it

Saints and Spinners said...

Steff: I love it that animals attended by taxidermists are "stuffed animals." :) You're dead-on (no pun intended) about the differences between museums and galleries. Here, a gallery seems to imply a number of artists coming together to show-case their work. I tend to be more of a museum person. That said, I could happily return to the Uffizi and Pitti galleries again and again.

LoneStarMa: I only have a general art history education myself. The challenge with art history classes is that when you go to look at art, you have to take NOTES and answer homework questions. Hiss boo! I like the experience to wash over me.

GraceAnne LadyHawk said...

Art is as necessary to me as words, or music.
When I was a senior in high school, I chose to take Art History instead of calculus. This horrified my teachers, because Art History was offered as a sop to girls considered not bright enough for maths. I was valedictorian of my class, so they gave me a really hard time.
I had a double major in English and Art History in college.
At the Met, where I have been going since childhood, I try to visit favorite pieces where I can stand for awhile along with new exhibitions.
Each painting, each sculpture is a new language. Sometimes I know the words and sometimes it takes me a long time to hear/see them.
This is rambly. I could go on for a long time. But instead, I will note that finally seeing Botticelli's Primavera at the Uffizi, after studying it for so long, was one of the peak experiences of my life.

mamakopp said...

Farida I love art museums and galleries. We all do. I like to go with my kids and see through their eyes and I like to go alone. One day I will visit the Louvre and I will cry big happy tears. It's a big dream of mine.

The LIbrary Lady said...

I love to be able to go to an art museum, find a loved painting, and sit quietly and watch it for a while.

Especially things by Monet. I sat for about 45 minutes in the Jeu de Paume in Paris where they had the circular room with the Water Lillies all around. Watching the light moving across and changing the look of the flowers was as close to a religious experience as I have ever had.

We also used to spend a lot of time at the Metroplitan in the gallery where they have the restored temple from Egypt. It's pure tranquility.

I love the DC museums, but avoid them as much as possible from April through August. Too many tourists to quietly enjoy things!