"the meaning of a work can be illuminated"

Art Much as I love visiting art galleries, I hate visiting art galleries. Museums too. The main problems with art galleries and museums and art exhibitions is this: they're terrible places to see things.  Oh everything is available, walls and floors filled with stuff, interesting stuff, beautiful stuff, clever stuff.  Enough stuff for us to spend all day looking at it.  Stuff everywhere, all with the potential if not necessarily to change our lives, at least change the way we look at the universe.

But, we're not alone. There are other visitors walking about self-centeredly wanting to the look at the stuff their way and never with the same concentration we want to give. There's staff members with their radios and being staff members. There's noise. The noise of creaky floor, squeeky doors, visitors discussing the work, the chatter or school groups, all of which can be magnified depending on how large the space is and how popular the display.

Essentially, unless we're very, very lucky we can never give the stuff the concentration we really should, that it's really designed for.  Most art gallery and museums and exhibitions are a distracting one size fits all solution to an impossible problem.  How do we enjoy artwork for what it is, what it should be?

Perhaps we should be able to look at art in private.  We should be able to book a room in a building somewhere and at the same time an artwork from a collection.  At the appointed time we visit and sit in a comfy seat in a soundproofed large empty room.

On the wall in front of us is the painting we want to see or in the centre of the room the sculpture.  We then have as long as we like to contemplate the piece, perhaps with some background information to hand.  Web access or some such.  Then, when we're ready the next work we want to see is brought in by handlers or we slip home and book the next appointment.

All of which is dour and unfair and draws away from the excitement of visiting a busy exhibition in which a mass of humanity is collectively enjoying the experience of seeing great art, the potential interactions, the moments when the meaning of a work can be illuminated because of those interactions.  Plus the curatorial choices which demonstrate connections between the stuff based on where it's placed.  They're all the reasons I love art and places that display it.  All of you.

But sometimes, just sometimes ...

The Smithsonian Institute has a post about how a physics student sat in some rooms at  the Cleveland Museum of Art just watching how visitors interacted with the work and the space, drawing their movements on graph paper.  The results are relatively predictable but what I draw from it is that much of what happens in these places is about trying to see the stuff as best we can.  Under the circumstances.

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