Tag Archives: museums

#occupymuseums

As a young, liberal-minded person, I’ve been generally following the #occupy movement. While appreciating the sentiment, I feel the movement mostly leaves the actual action of the activism to a  body that is made up of the same breed of rich, white, male-bodied people whom the movement is protesting against. So while not participating directly because of the lack of organization and generally the method of activism, I do hope, someday, that taxes will make more sense, even if that means that I, as an upper middle person, will be taxed more.

That aside, what really caught my attention this week was an article on the Washington Post’s website about the #occupymuseums movement.

The idea is that museums perpetuate “cultural elitism.” And yes, they do. But I don’t think the tagline of the #occupy movement applies to art museums. That one percent of the world is represented in those museums and the ninety-nine percent isn’t. Whether we like it or not, “museum art” is a part of our Western cultural consciousness and the story we tell about ourselves. I am very pro-museum institution. But I am also very pro-art outside of museums. There are art and artists who actively break down museums in their work, whether they are participating in the museum system or not.

I originally saw a mention of this movement on my tumblr (my favorite micro-blogging platform). It was paired with a Barbara Kruger piece “You invest in the divinity of the masterpiece.” Kruger is an example of an artist who breaks down the cultural elitism of museums by working in the museum system.

"You invest in the divinity of the masterpiece," Barbara Kruger, 1982, MoMA

I believe museums are less culturally elite than the prospect of these pieces of art being in the private homes of the true 1%. Maybe art is elitist because there is such a thing as art and Art, and I believe that good art exists. I believe in the canon, as much as I believe in breaking open the canon. Like I said in my post about the Barnes Foundation (An Opinion: The Barnes Foundation), the absolute most important thing to me is that people have access to art. Large, urban museums provide that. Anyone can walk into the Metropolitan Museum of Art  and see a large portion of art history. And I think that the more pressing issue which the #occupymuseums movement may be missing is that art exists outside museums. By protesting the institution, they are giving power to the institutions, by legitimatizing the notion that because museums are elitist and rich, they monopolize the best art. But there is among the best art outside of museums as well.  As an extremely canonical person (I want to study Renaissance art and Victorian literature, for God’s sake), I do tend to prioritize art that is in museums. But I also actively seek out art outside of the museum system, and I think encouraging that would help break down the elitism more.

You can’t change the institution by being angry at it; you can change it by providing it with competition. Let great art exists in museums, make great art outside of museums and provide access to everyone. That’s how you make the art world equal opportunity.

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the Rodin museum, Philadelphia, PA

a missed blogging opportunity that I am now seizing

So about two weeks ago I think, my father and I drove up to Philly to pick up my twin brother from his college. I love my brother and was so excited about seeing him, but my desire in driving 14 hours straight each way was not completely selfless. In Philadelphia, there is the Rodin Museum, the second greatest collection of Rodin works outside of the Museè Rodin in Paris. But my twin does not go to school in Paris. Still a great thing about Rodin is that he was a bronze worker, so he made multiple casts.

My favorite thing about the museum is that is something we don’t get a lot here in the south. We have a lot of regional museums, and usually the goal of regional museums is to acquire lesser known works of big artists, or one or two really great pieces by big artists, and then a lot of lesser known works by lesser known artists. I am not bashing regional museums at all; I almost prefer them to big art museums that are super intimidating. Just their permanent collections tend to be like a random crash course in art history. Here in Atlanta, the High has the opportunity to have amazing travelling collections which have a more focused background. They had the traveling Louvre exhibit in three sections over three years, and just announced a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit coming in January 2011.

But the Rodin Museum had depth into a singular artist that the High can never have/doesn’t really want to have, even in their travelling exhibitions. I got to start at the beginning of his work and travels through it. I saw studies next to finished pieces, the minute next to the monumental and it was a beautiful experience that my dad and I both enjoyed. If you are in Philly, please go check it out, even if you don’t like art. 1. IT IS FREE. 2. Because it is limited to the works of Rodin, the museum can be knocked out in about 1 1/2, 3. Also because the works are Rodin they are super detailed so you really could spend all day there. 4. Even if you don’t like art, the larger than life figures are so monumental that you have a visceral reaction to them. 5. It is right near the PMA, which though not free is a great museum, even though I didn’t get to go this time.

The Burghers of Calais

Me at the Gates of Hell, Rodin's unfinished masterpiece

Rodin's signature

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