Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Museum As Medium

I think the average artist and contemporary art student has a love hate relationship with museums and  perhaps often sees museums as the corporate aspect of art and artists, epitomizing the business of the art world.

In spite of the fact that our fourth year Fine Art class were able to see such a variety of remarkable and inspiring art work by numerous renowned artists, which I can not underestimate, it was however the experience of the small independent galleries in Chelsea that many seemed to be have struck by. 

There is much to be said for the small museum. Through out my youth and adult life I recall visiting odd, unusual, little, museums,  some in Ontario, others throughout parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  They were always full of strange and wondrous items and treasures. Three headed calves, clothes that belonged to the biggest man in the Maritimes, the smallest woman, antique tools, farm machinery, replicas of buildings and some preserved original structures. They were fascinating,  interactive memorials that transported you to another time and place.

There is a place for the large mammoth museum I know. The smaller museums offer something very different though I believe, allowing for, the museum as medium, because of the intimate experience enabled by the particular, the peculiar, the precious and the rare. You don't get lost in the small museum, and more often than not you have the opportunity to converse at length with the curator, which enriches the experience.

I noticed in the Metropolitan Museum there were rooms, like small museums within the museum. I went to the antique musical instrument room. It was an amazing, intimate experience, and I didn't feel overwhelmed with the expanse of space and the amount of items within the exhibit. It was a valuable characteristic that optimized the museum as medium.

Last week I watched Night At The Museum with Ben Stiller, featuring The Museum of Natural History in New York City, an incredible place. Here's a funny clip  about not touching the exhibits.
I remember going to the Royal Albert Museum in London England, seeing Goya's masterpiece, Guernica and waiting so badly to touch it. The attendant very assertively reminded me to not touch the painting. I must have had that look on my face, that he undoubtedly had seen many times before.  It's the most natural thing for a person to want to do I think, or perhaps that's peculiar to artists. I also saw the wonderful dancer Josephine Baker's costumes with all those feathers. I admit I touched it!

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