Finding the Art in Everything

25 March, 2009

Art and Museums

I took a class when I lived in England taught by an Art History professor called “Art and Museums”. We met once a week at a gallery somewhere in the city, which made me explore art galleries AND the city. Apart from being a fun class, it changed the way I spend my time in a gallery.

First, we go there to see the art, not the collection. With Art Museums, in order to “survive them”, we are always supposed to assume we are coming back. Pleasure comes from depth of personal experience, which can’t be hurried, can’t be checked off a list, and can’t be done 50 times in a day. Less is more. To see everything is to see nothing.

Second, the best way to see a pieces is to imitate it. Look where the subject looks, assume their poses, try to speak and listen to it. (it’s less embarrassing when all of this is subtle and non-verbal). It’s imitating art that imitates life. Or is life imitating art?

Third, the goal is to take something away with you from every gallery experience. You should have at least one piece which spoke to you—often, like a poem, because you worked at it. For the last few summers, I have taken two dozen kids to London, Paris, and Rome. Their first gallery experiences, for many of them,(because we live in an art-starved area) is in 2-3 of the most important galleries in Western Art. I deploy them into the Lourve, point them to the Mona Lisa, and then make them promise me they will at least bring one other piece out with them.

Last, the more time you spend in galleries, the more you appreciate each gallery experience. I have been in galleries all over Europe and the United States. It’s amazing to see the way a dead artist’s oeuvre has been strewn all over two continents. Going to many galleries helps reassemble Raphael, Bougereau, Rembrandt and Chagall. This takes longer with artist like O’Keefe and Monet, because it’s hard to find a gallery that doesn’t have one of their works.

The more you see of a particular artist, the more his work means to you. The more the work means to you, the more worthwhile the Art Museum visit.

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