Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I was here

Michelle Diller's photo of the Mona Lisa paparazzi

I saw this photo of Michelle's yesterday and it reminded me of a Marcel Berlin article I read (via a link from C-monster) about photography at museums. Berlin wrote about his recent experience watching the behavior of the photo-crazed 21st Century museum patrons, saying,

"They were there not to see and be inspired by artists of genius, but to take snaps to prove they were there."

He goes on to say,

"People were taking pictures of their partners or friends posing next to, or even in front of, some of the more famous works. Neither snappers nor subjects had bothered to scrutinize the art itself, though I saw a few consulting the adjacent label - no doubt to make sure the artist was a really famous name, not some lesser-known dabbler."

Is this the real "death of painting"? - paintings as wallpaper/backdrops for your new facebook photo?...I admit to being guilty of having done that before- seen here in front of the Kasmir Malevich's "White on White" - but the article does raise some interesting questions...why do we snap photos of famous art at museums? If it's a way of saying "I was here" - in essence it is not much different than tagging a cement wall with spray paint or carving your name in an aspen tree.

Berlin goes on in his article to insist that people spend some time with the works they are snapping photos of or be "fined for each second of non-inspection". That would certainly do nothing to get more people in the door of already struggling art instutions. After a couple of semesters of teaching 'Art Appreciation' I think that part of the reason people may not be spending time "inspecting" the work is they don't know what they are looking at, and perhaps don't care. Is that the fault of the artist? the museum? the patron? the art?


michelle said...

Great blog. I was so disappointed that I couldn't get up close to a few particular paintings while in Europe. I wanted to study them and better understand them, but when you're ropped off twenty feet from a piece that's 16x20ish, it's a little hard to appreciate.

Now a small piece I was able to get extremely close to was the Arnolfini Portrait. Not allowed to take photographs, but this encouraged me to really study the painting. Quite amazing.

Nathan said...

"Not allowed to take photographs, but this encouraged me to really study the painting" - it is interesting that when we're not concerned with capturing things in our cameras we can experience things differently. I've forgotten my camera on a couple of road trips and found them to be quite well-remembered despite not having photos.


Related Posts with Thumbnails