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.
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.
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.
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
black stiletto heels
red hair and a chignon
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.