Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ways of Seeing (Art)

I guess one main reason I post these publicly instead of keeping them as a private journal is that usually comments from all of you make me think about things in a new way. Recently, comments to a snobbish nytimes article I posted about art made me think about how we visit museums, and the ways of seeing (as an old art history book of mine called it).

The article laments the practice of people who jog through the Louvres, to snap their photo next to the Mona Lisa, without spending more than a few seconds in front of each work.

Nowadays, when i go to a museum, i try to go to the special exhibits, mostly because they are transient, but also because they often tell more of a story, in terms of how they were curated. (Hanging out with art historians, you realize someone puts a ton of thought on these things) I'm also actually sympathetic with the jogging (though R- didn't like the fact I made her do that for her first visit to the louvres). I guess I got that from my art history prof who did that for my first visit. Even though over the course of the 6 week course, we spent pretty much every other day in some Paris museum, we still only saw a tiny fraction, and the prof thought it would be a travesty if we didn't at least see the mona lisa, the venus de milo and the nike. You can see many reproductions, but I've learned that reproductions are always a poor substitute in terms of image fidelity, size, impact, context in terms of other paintings, but also geography, and the other people watching.

Just like watching a movie alone is different than watching it in a theater. I'm also at the end of the day, less judgmental than the article. It is true that for a lot of people, they are there because they feel it is good for them, or because it is a status symbol. saying "hey, i saw the mona lisa last weekend" is similar to driving up in a hybrid car, or giving someone a diamond ring. but maybe that's ok. Americans are more likely to go to a museum than go watch sports, and somewhere along the way, that probably leads to something good.
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