Archive for August 15th, 2008

Museum Survival


Museum Survival Training should start early.

Museum Survival Training should start early.

Visiting museums is no easy work. Without being an art history major in college or an extensive background in art appreciation many museums are just slow boring walks in these fancy buildings. I would like to help by offering some basic training measures to make museums easier and more enjoyable.

Time Limits

Just because there is more to the museum does not mean you need to visit it. My family runs on the belief that after three hours in any museum our ears will start to bleed. This does not mean we do not appreciate it, it is just that after a few hours the appreciation for the art drops significantly. I do not suggest putting in a hard time limit, that would cause you to rush through the place, rather realize that if you are tired or no longer care about the work it is okay to leave.

Do you like it?

There is a twelve foot oil painting on the wall of some french baron of the 18th century. Do you care? Just because the art is in a museum does not mean you have to like it. It also helps to find out what you do and don’t like. I love impressionist, landscape and modern art. I just walk by portraits, still life and religious paintings. I know that they are important with incredible talent but I just don’t care. Similarly if the painting is by someone famous like Monet does not mean it is instantly great art. Look at the art, decide if you like it or not and then look to see who did it. You might be surprised about what artists you like in the end.

Take Breaks

This is important. Find a piece of art you like, or maybe just tolerate, find a nearby bench and just sit down for five or ten minutes. Give your feet a rest. Have a small snack or something to drink if the museum allows food in (some do, some don’t. Check online before going). This helps compensate for the museum shuffle. That slow ponderous walking style that slowly rotates around rooms ending in long periods in front of the “good” works. Use these breaks to consult the museum make for sections that look interesting. In large museums, the like the Louvre, plan the most efficient route from the Mona Lisa to the Winged Victory.

People Watch

Stand back from the art and look around at all the other people in the room. See who is starting intently at the art, check for school groups, there is bound to be some people goofing around and not looking at the Diego Rivera mural. Or if you are in a foreign country try to find and tag along with an english art class visiting the museum. Often you can overhear the teacher or guide discussing the finer points of paintings that you thought were just pictures of soup.

Make stuff up

If asked about an art piece that you know nothing about. Just make stuff up. Mention of the blues create an overall sad tone that is counterpointed with the vivid joy of the yellow flowers lining the sea cliff which in of itself induces a feeling a life precariously balanced with the only happiness in the dark ocean of the past. Or don’t make stuff up and talk about what you see in the painting and why the painter put it there. Rarely is there something in an art piece without a reason. Unless you are Jackson Pollock.

Take a Class

For deeper appreciation of an artistic movement, an era or a countries art look for classes. The fastest way to build a deep appreciation of a specific area is to find a local class and enroll. Or see if you can just crash the lectures. Before going to China I took a class in Chinese Art History, thanks to that I could actually appreciate the chinese landscape painting instead of thinking “Gee that is some mountain they got going there”.

Finally there are some art forms that never make it into museums. Well not normally.

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