15 May 2020: Museums are a lot like shopping malls: items of cultural interest lie in carefully arranged bays. The structure of the building guides the shopper to the items of the greatest import. The air is conditioned, the lighting is muted which adds to the sense of suspension of time. Visitors can enter, then exit, hours later feeling slightly dazed and overwhelmed.
Display in a museum legitimizes and iconizes contemporary art. For example, Warhol’s images screen printed 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, where Florence Nightingale’s visage was displayed cheerily in a two-by-two block. 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). For example, a piece of art displayed in a craft store may be assumed to be worth little, due to the display location. If Saatchi (the curators) believe that the style or presentation of the piece fits their specs, well then the item’s worth rockets. In short, I believe that perceived worth depends upon the class of the gallery which has chosen to back the item.
Are museums mausoleums for art? Are museums necropolis? 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.
20 May 2020: I located a group exhibition which was held several years ago at the Science and Media Museum in London. 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 extremely broad examples 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. Reflecting on the contents of this show, I would guess that the curators would look for images which fit the theme. Curators must then evaluate how the images would fit together, and what message is behind the display. For example, the curators had an opportunity to only show color images which demonstrated the typical features of art as still life: Fruit, objects, arrangements. However, in this show, the curators choose work which spans the spectrum of still life styles. The variety is interesting, however, I wonder if the curator was a bit off-track when then including the images the boys working in the factory. The boys were still as they were caught by the shutter, but does that qualify as a still life?