“Museums are like the sepulchers of art. They testify to the neutralization of culture.” Theodor Adorno
16 May 2020: Museums are a lot like shopping malls: items of cultural interest lie in carefully arranged bays and structure of the building guides the shopper most easily to the items of the greatest import. The air is conditioned, the lighting is muted, adding a sense of suspended time.
Display in a museum appears to legitimize and iconize contemporary art. For example, Warhol’s images of Marilyn Monroe. Brilliant… and now available for purchase on t-shirts, canvas bags or posters. This image has become a cultural staple in the US and Warhol’s style is imitated using other images, like recently for Nurses’ Week, Florence Nightingale.
Who does decide what qualifies as “art”, or what is “good art”? At the center of this question is the matter of value—not emotional, but financial value of art. “good art” is not chosen by a democratic process, rather, it is about commerce. It is about what will appeal to an audience who may be convinced to buy. At the individual level, all people can choose what they like, relate to and the value of the art. Its interesting to listen to people at a museum as they comment about pieces of art. Some art, even if famous, is not reliably relatable, like Jackson Pollock’s work. (That is not art, it is throwing paint!). Art gains value related to the value of the “sponsor” (such as gallery or museum).
Are museums mausoleums for art? I think that asking the question about what art is and what does it do could help here. Art can be the start of a dialog or an expression of an idea. When any idea is exalted as being a fact, as art would seem to be if displayed in a museum, is the viewer put in the position of accepting this fact, rather than questioning? It seems that the production and the life of art can become stilted if it is considered an “example” or “perfect”.
On the other hand, museums provide the opportunity for many people too experience art in person—which can be transformational. For example, the Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre, allowing multitudes to see that, indeed, it is a small painting. The experience of seeing something differently can be transformational, thus, though Mona Lisa may be diminished, the observer’s mind is changed.
17 May, 2020: Contexts of Consumption
The intent of the group exhibition which I found, Art of Arrangement: Photography and the Still-life Tradition, is to demonstrate that still-life is a common theme in photography, and the content is often symbolic and the style, varied. My still-life images of the poultry would fit in as they are also symbolic, rich in detail and color. The show contains a very broad example of still life, including boys working in a shoe factory (more documentary than still-life) to Ori Gerscht’s work with exploding tomatoes. I believe that my image of the duck in the fridge would have been very much in keeping with the other pieces in this show.
Science and Media Museum: Art of arrangement-photography and the still life tradition. November 2012-February 2013.