Why go to museums & galleries?

art, art criticism, artforum, visual arts
Down at the Disco at Midnight, 106 x 96 cm, acrylic on wood.

Down at the Disco at Midnight, 106 x 96 cm, acrylic on wood.

I spent the last week in London. I visited several galleries in and around Albermarle, Cork, New/Old Bond Streets and I meandered through and across the following museums: Imperial War Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.

Friday Night & MOnday Morning

Friday Night & Monday Morning, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.

I also visited Somerset House to see Blondie, the Advent of Punk, featuring the photography of Chris Stein, and I paid fifteen pounds to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Right from the start of my wanderings, I wondered and debated the question:

Why go to museums?

Every image is available via our smartphones and computers. It is all on the web and is accessible 24/7 without the least inconvenience. No bus, train, taxi to take. No braving the rain, snow, sleet, heat and smog, nor the crowds. And it doesn’t cost 15 pounds.

I went to the aforementioned museums and galleries because I love walking and it gave me a sense of purpose. I saw art that was interesting and art that was drivel, the equivalent of drip painting by anybody who is not Pollock.

Pool Hall, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.

Pool Hall, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.

Entre-nous, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.

Menage a Cinque, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.

Menage a Cinque, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014

La Nuite des Maudits, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014


Self-portrait, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.

Of course, some art had me wondering why my own work was not on exhibit in any number of galleries, and since no answer was forthcoming, I concentrated less on my own work, and tried to understand and enjoy the work I was seeing.

I was not blown away. Kiefer’s work, but not all, was powerful, willingly dreary, German. Grand in scale, they filled the immense walls of the Academy and could not but impress.

And viewers or spectators gazed in silence or, at most, whispered commentary, which leads to my next question:

Why is everyone so quiet? It’s not like going to Church or the Synagogue, or is it?

Maybe anything we might say would sound trite, stupid, pretentious, misplaced, and few of us want to sound uneducated, especially after spending so much money on becoming schooled. (I dropped out of the Classics Programme at Concordia U, Montreal, so I qualify as seriously ignorant, and why, presumably, have no answers, why I appeal to you, reader, for commentary here or at my Facebook page.)

Everything in the museum is so sanctimonious: the guardians, custodians, standing around like altarboys and girls; the distance from the artwork itself that must be respectfully kept, the lighting, and there is even a scent to museums, but it is in our own animal behaviour, comportamento, as we approach and entry into the museum: we gape, we gaze, we hold our breath in anticipation of wonder and imminent revelation, describe sidelong glances to our mates, eyebrows arched, at being impressed, confused, understanding, bewildered.

Hands clasped at our backs,or arms folded, or grappling with the museum guide, the Bible, the alms book of daily prayer, we shuffle along from painting to sculpture to installation to paper works and artists books,in and out of rooms, and onto the next, until we emerge from the museum, purged of our own insignificance, enriched and empowered, members of a sect, a religion, a faith that sets us apart from those who do not go to exhibitions, do not go to  the opera, do not read Literature and History.

You stand apart from the hordes. Entrenched behind books, culture, art,  knowledge, sensibilities or sensitivities, Kultur, you believe you are safe from the boor who will deride the art that has so touched and moved you you cannot sleep.

When the huddled mass of ignorance, sweat and intellectual hogwash and stink laughs out loud to say: it’s bullshit!, you cringe, turn away, sneer, distance yourself as fast as it is discretely possible to do so without being noticed  because you know you don’t have a chance against the horde, or the crazed boor who insists Rothko is a fake.

“Okay, I got the two-tone bleak on bleak the first time, the second time, but a whole career spent painting the same painting is, yes, frankly beyond me, and b-o-r-i-n-g. And reading the  explanatory notes too hilarious. I mean, what are these guys on to write all that bullshit on a white hole of nothingness.”

(Better not mention the  white-on-whites by deKoonig, or the boor will never stop barking  like a hyena.)

To be honest, I wasn’t impressed by Kiefer’s pile of lead sheets, either; I had the same – no – similar pile when I tore out my bathroom last month, but context is vital, critiques and critics, too,  and an alchemical combination of good fortune, time, place, people, confidence, bravado, vision, arrogance, and talents.

Evidently, I lack most, if not all, of the above. And I probably abound in ignorance. I do what I do, paint, in the safety of my own grounds, oblivious to much, and ignored by all, grateful to the Muses and McFate for granting me this space and time to create, bring to fruition the odd mixture of components and elements of which I am composed.

It’s what I know, in short; that, and museums are full of gorgeous women and openings are great places for starting a conversation with smart, bright ladies.

Redhead at National Gallery

Redhead at National Gallery, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.

P.S. You were dressed as above, with black-framed glasses, at the National Gallery, 11-19 November; me, Mr Miserable, bearded, thunderstruck:

In she walked

tight white shirt

grey skirt to the knees

bare legged

black stiletto heels

and glasses

red hair and a chignon

whitest skin

most perfect complexion

and a Mona Lisa smile

across the floor

in a long bare-legged stride

she walked to gaze

at a Renaissance nude

that she was

in the mirror.

P.S.S. The Abstracts in this post were produced before my trip to London, while the paintings were made on my return just days ago; the former were, however, side trips, excursions from what might be considered my style, ie Figurative Narrations, while the Others herein posted were painted on my return, the first being Down at the Disco at Midnight.

Now the next question is: what are the effects of going to galleries and museums on one’s own work? What is your experience?

Looking forward to your comments and replies.

The End?

art, artist, contemporary artist, portfolio

When do you know you’re finished? You don’t. You stand back, observe, reflect, go for a walk, sleep on it, and in the middle of the night, you realize there’s something wrong.

An uneasy feeling, specks of dust that make your nose twitch, becomes a rock-hard punch to that same nose, each speck of dust transformed into a lead and concrete block, so heavy getting out of bed becomes a burden.

The eyes are all wrong. Not all wrong, but need a touch of paint here, three strokes there, more shade, less shade, more color, lighter, darker, more variation, but without spoiling the chosen palette.

It’s not easy, but nobody’s chasing you for results.

You’re your own boss, your own critic, and nobody’s watching.

But you know where it’s wrong, and where it can be righted.

So, out with your paints, brushes, cup of water, rag, and tea.

The problem is that essentially, you are satisified. It does look okay, and it can be improved, but the fear is that you overdo it, you alter the painting and make it worse or even: the painting is ruined.

If it were a geared machine, I am thinking Victoriana, one loosed screw, one lost screw, and the entire contraption starts to wriggle and shake and, ultimately, its parts loosed, the Gargantuan contraption shatters, its parts spilled to the floor.

Looking at this painting the morning after I finished, and judiciously thought to myself, I’d like to see what the colors are like in the morning, I can see that the colors are more or less satisfactory, but the x and y are eyesores as is the z. But compared to Girlfriend with Loft, for example, which precedes The Triangle of Circular Squares, where the girlfriend is a suggestion rather than a true figure, why am I after a more realistic depcition of these people?

I’m no hyper- or photo-realist. How could I be? I have trouble being a realist.

But in this painting, the mode was set, and I have to proceed within its own logic.  That may mean I have to repaint it. Time stops. And then action.

I suppose it’s like rehearsing a play. You go over the lines, the motions and emotions, scene after scene, act after act until you reach the end and you are satisfied. And the curtain comes up and it’s the true and final and first performance and there’s nothing between you and the audience and they laugh at the wrong places and don’t laugh at the right places and the critics will tear you apart and you mumble and stutter, forget your lines and oh, disaster.

Why I feel lucky to be in my studio, my paint, brushes and me – alone, except for the dozen or so paintings I see waiting to be painted before me.

I will make this painting ‘better’, but I have those other lives, characters, Actors caught within the framework, to save, resuscitate, unpack from their boxes, unleash from their beds, and so on.

After all, I bet that Mona Lisa smile was a mistake. I mean, nobody smiles like that, but Leonardo, being the frenetic Genius that he was, told himself he’d get back to it someday, then things came up, and he died.

So, perfection is fine, if  ever you are granted infinity, and a hyper-realist will tell you that it’s highly unlikely, but I Always think of Shakespeare. The  pressure was on, the fury of his Genius enraged, and who the hell has time for notes and folios when I’ve got put on this show, and give Birth  to this next child – and oh, let the Others bawl, dirty, scantily dressed, snotty loves of mine who now live, beautifully imperfect, accidentally becoming, yet complete, while this next cries for life and I cannot delay…

The Triangle of Circular Squares,  or The Importance of Being Earnest.  95 x 106 cm, acrylic and graphite on wood. About: www.arteluigi.wordpress.com.


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Ambition, the painting I posted on my first twitter Yesterday, came to the fore. Of all the paintings I might have posted, it was not a painting I chose at random. It summarised how I felt during the period which led to this new series of paintings. What was I going to do? Paint? Paint what? Take pictures I would manipulate and publish in my photography portfolio at www.luigimonteferrante.com? I wanted to do something different. But how could I do something different – think, act, ponder, create anything different with these same hands, heart and soul? The solution: Ambition. A man holding a knife stands behind a man who is seated. The former will presumably murder the latter. Brutus/Caesar. CEO and his right-hand man, the CFO. Father and son. Buddies. A jealous husband. There are countless reasons for murder as we learn from history, literature, film, the news, TV drama. Nor are our own inner rage and deeper instincts immune to murderous conflagration, but in Ambition, the Ambition of late has taken on a wholly new meaning: murdering me, or killing one’s self to overcome one’s elf. No Nietzchean Superman, or comic strip here, but dying to become an Other who is one day stronger and better than Yesterday’s. No more, no less. At each sunrise/sunset, the maker of a new fate. And so we proceed as Merlo Ponti across Blackbird Bridge, working title of this Lasalle/Montreal series of paintings, singing Ridi, Pagliaccio. And laugh as we paint.

Ambition, from The Blue Room, 105 x 75 cm, acrylic on wood, LMonteferrante