Category Archives: aura

Simplicity is Key

After Monday’s lecture on technology within the museum, I saw this on a walk and it made me stop and think about the simplicity I seek within museum walls.  Everyday I walk (as I know everyone else in the class does too) past the light store- Filaments.  The store, located near Parson’s on 13th Street, is filled to capacity with light bulbs, stands, and shades. I know this is a stretch, but every time I walk past the store, I always think of the Hall of Biodiversity located in the American Museum of Natural History.  The Hall of Biodiversity is laid out in a similar manner, it is crowded, colorful, and completely attention-grabbing.  There is a very small presence of technology, making the visitor rely almost solely on the presentation of the plants and animals.

If I said I adored this area of the museum, it would be an understatement.  Every visit I am pleasantly overwhelmed by the information and models presented, and I always learn something new.  I really appreciate the simplicity of this Hall, and I find it refreshing that I find myself thinking of the museum when I see things as simple as a store front.

This is something museums must strive for-  a seamless transition between spaces.  Museum learning cannot stop once a visitor leaves the confines of the institution.  I applaud the Hall for it’s simplicity.  If it was only technological displays, instead of the appropriate combination that it does have, I doubt it would make as strong as impact on its viewers.

Ryan Massey

Steven Conn Podcast

Here is a podcast interview with Steven Conn, who we read in class this week. The conversation is based around his book “Do We Still Need Objects?” and its pretty interesting to hear his views. I thought that some of the class might enjoy hearing more about his thoughts.

Jess Petersen

Don’t forget the real artefacts!

It seems there is a very real danger of losing touch with the real objects and artefacts that are the essence of the museum. With the rise of digital media and the increasing investment in the online and interactive presence of museums, people becoming less inclined to interact with the real objects. As referred to in the ‘Themes and Threads’ of this course the status of the object is under threat. I would suggest that we need to reconnect with the objects around us whether in a museum or not in order to develop an awareness of their value and meaning. The book How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith presents a playful way to do this. It contains a series of ‘explorations’ or assignments that challenge the reader to interact with and collect the objects in their environment and create personal museum.

The answer to Stephen Conn’s book title and provocative question: Do Museums Still Need Objects? has to be YES, right?

RH

The Latest Word: Spaces of Experience

Charlotte Klonk's "Spaces of Experience"

The latest word in display theory was just released by Yale University Press. As in two weeks ago. Charlotte Klonk’s Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800 to 2000 locates the development of art gallery interiors in the broader history of experience and perception. It looks like an interesting read, and may be helpful in guessing what comes next!

Jenny F.

Evolution: Science and Art for Sale in SoHo

evolution and curiosityThis store has been a landmark in Manhattan’s SoHo art district since 1993; it “sells unique natural history collectibles usually seen only in museums. These include butterflies and beetles, fossils, seashells, skulls and skeletons, medical models, and tribal art.” More here.

The second I walked into this store it immediately reminded me of the Cabinets of Curiosity; the way the objects are presented and the whole store is structured is similar to an early museum. For those of you who are not familiar with the Cabinet of Curiosities also known as Cabinets of Wonder, or Wonder-Rooms [Wunderkammern], these were encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined in Renaissance Europe . Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art and antiquities. It was regarded as a microcosm or ‘theater of the world’, and a ‘memory theater’.

Peter Thomas stated about Charles I of England’s collection that these were “a form of propaganda”, only for the aristocrats and only some could afford having them. Besides the most famous, best documented cabinets of rulers and aristocrats, members of the merchant class and early practitioners of science in europe formed collections that were in fact the precursors to public museums.

Clarisa Llaneza

Indian Halloween at NMAI

On Saturday, the Coatlicue Theater Company performed in the atrium space of the museum, in celebration of The Day of the Dead. From my understanding, they had several performances. I caught a fifteen minute performance, where Natives danced barefoot to the beat of two drums, with decorated in musical objects and elaborate masks. I wondered if their movement was choreographed, but after several minutes I realized the outer circle of people followed the movements of three leaders in the center. The sound was the most powerful aspect of the performance; the vibrations from the drums, chanting, and maracas echoed off the high ceilings. It was the first time I experienced the energy of a pow wow in person. This group of cultural activists/performers also created a participatory experience for visitors, inviting the crowd to join them in a dance. Business men and women, tourists and children moved around the exhibition space with joined hands. This performative, personal interaction with visitors expressed traditions and practices of the Native culture in ways a static exhibition could not.

vancj574ill

Locating Masterpieces

I went to the Met yesterday and I had two experiences that so well illustrated the post by Ryan concerning object reproduction as discussed in the Lippman article. It also pairs well with the concept of putting objects on display in context.

Part I: The Vermeer Exhibit

assetimage.jspAs many of you are likely aware, The Milkmaid , an iconic painting by the Dutch artist Vermeer, is now on exhibit at the Met along with the 5 Vermeers in the Met’s collection. The Milkmaid has not left its home, the Rijksmueum in Amsterdam, in 70 years! Talk about having to travel the world to see all of the greatest hits in the history of art…

When I arrived at the exhibit, The Milkmaid was surrounded by many more spectatorsthan those Vermeers owned by the Met. And who could blame us? I have no idea when will be the next time I’ll be in Amsterdam. And the painting is exquisite. So were the other 5 Vermeers in the Met’s collection which were displayed alongside it.

The funny thing was, I HAD seen The Milkmaid before. (At the Rijksmuseum obviously; I am not over 70 years old.) But I hadn’t really remembered it was the Milkmaid I saw there anymore than Love Letter or Woman Reading a Letter which are also in Amsterdam. But that didn’t really matter to me. I’m not an encyclopedia but I still enjoy seeing great paintings. Reproductions are never replacements when it comes to enjoying the technique of masterly painting.

But this is where it gets interesting; there are only 36 paintings attributed to Vermeer (plus another 30 that MIGHT be by him…)

The Met had an entire wall with reproductions of these 36 painting in a grid. Because so many of Vermeer’s paintings are recognizable (if not iconic), it was incredibly interesting to study which of these painting were located in which museums around the world! I was endlessly amused to see a reproduction and think to myself “oh, I’ve definitely seen this one, it must be at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam” – and then check the legend to discover it was owned by a museum I had never visited!

In summary:

1: Because of the proliferation of reproductions in books and online, it can be incredibly challenging to remember which things we actually have seen years ago on vacations. The question is whether this makes going to museums meaningful at all. (I think so: it is all about the entire experience of visiting one which I will get to later. And in the case of painting at least – being able to examine painting technique in person)

2. Museums’ collections are no doubt assets, but they may also devise their own assets by making the experience of seeing their objects a meaningful and educational experience.
I thought the grid of Vermeer reproductions was such a simple, but incredibly effective tool to communicate just how limited in scope Vermeer’s work is, and it was so fascinating to compare the similarities between all of his paintings, while highlighting those that did not conform to his standard compositions.

Part II: The Quest for Madame X

Sargent_MadameXMadame X by John Singer Sargent, certainly an iconic, memorable painting, was recently located in the European painting and sculpture galleries. This was somewhat problematic as Sargent is an American artist. On the other hand, it was displayed along other American and European full-length portraits in a similar, soft brushy technique. In my opinion, it was an absolutely amazing pairing of paintings – my favorite part of the entire museum at the time!

The Met has recently remodeled their American Wing (we discussed this earlier in reference to the new interactive screens in the Period Rooms.) Though their Period Rooms are “up and running” for the most part, the installation for many American paintings and decorative arts is not completed. As a compromise, these objects are labeled and displayed in a (for lack of a better word) cramped storage room that is open to the public.

They moved (as far as I could tell) all of their American paintings that were formerly in the European wing to their temporary “open to the public storage.” My friend and I were determined to see Madame X and were not convinced the Met would deign to keep her in this storage room, but a couple guards insisted she was there.

We looked and looked all over this storage room and were about to give up, when we noticed a couple in the corner closely examining a painting. There she was! Unframed, with maybe 3 or 4 feet of room to stand away from her. And of course a lovely glare on the display case. To think that this painting was recently displayed so prominently, between Manet paintings even. She could be seen maybe 60-80 feet away, through two arched doorways! Insane to think about…

In Summary:

1: Seeing an object in context is obviously one of the most important things a museum can execute. It is a complicated issue. Now Madame X is placed alongside other American objects. Does this do the painting justice when she is displayed so poorly? Obviously she will be much easier to see when the rest of the American Wing is remodeled.

But even so – the question is really should she be paired alongside other full-length portraits, regardless of nationality? Or only along fellow American full-length portraits?

2: In is so interesting when realizing that The Milkmaid is certainly as prolific an image as Madame X. Yet right now, as I type, they are both under the same roof. One is having people huddled around it, and the other is lost to the world.

Reproduction of the “Masterpiece”

After reading the article “The Museum of the Future” by Walt Lippmann, I was curious and interested in his concept of reproducing artwork.  He considered museums as a sanctuary for artwork and stressed that in today’s museum setting, most of these pieces will never leave their “home”. Because museum collections are leaning towards the permanent, viewers have little chance to see certain items if they don’t travel. Traveling to view art, in some eyes, is not always a priority and therefore, certain masterpieces will never be experienced by this audience. “Yet the supply of masterpieces of art and unique objects of great value is limited, whereas all over the world, in every nation and in every city there is a rising demand by greater and greater masses of people for access to these masterpieces and unique objects.”This begs a serious question: should art be reproduced?

In the future, museums must discover ways to reach both local and national visitors, and reproducing art, I think is one way to help fix the problem. I am not saying however, that the reproduction artwork should be viewed as the original, nor should it be referenced as a primary source. Reproduction artwork should used similar to a library as Lippmann suggests, to implement its original self- it should be inspiration to view the source, in this case, the masterpiece.  Suggesting that famous paintings be copied does seem to take away from it’s splendor and glory, and this notion of copying should be approached with caution. If though the copies  provide a way for others, unable to see the original, to connect with the artwork, would it not be considered a success?

I want to open this post to everyone’s opinions, I am really curious to see how the group feels about the importance of the “one of a kind” verses the readily available. Would the notion of reproduction lead to the downfall of the museum? Would it take away certain museums’ appeals, or, could it provide a means of further research and study?

(ryanmassey)

Stairway to the Past

The tenement is a New York City Museum that tells the stories of immigrants who loved in 97 Orchard Street, a tenement built in 1863 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side by a German named Lucas Glockner and it was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants. These immigrants faced challenges that we understand better today; specially with the economic and moral crisis we are confronting: making a new life, working for a better future, starting a family with limited means. This museum tells their stories, the stories of the families that lived here; how they lived, what they accomplished and where did they came from. The second you enter the building the museum takes you to the days were there was no electricity inside the building and slowly take you through the years in a casual and very interactive way.

Ruth Abraham, an historian and social activist wanted a museum that honored America’s immigrants; but she accomplished much more. The museums mission: “The Tenement Museum promotes tolerance and historical perspective through the presentation and interpretation of the variety of immigrant and migrant experiences on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gateway to America”.

97 Orchard was found in ruins, after it being abandoned for over 50 years, it took a long time to gather everything together, combing through archives, compiling evidence about tenements and their lives; but after several years of research the museum began the task of restoring apartments and in 1992 they opened the first restored apartment, the 1878 home of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family. Now, they have restored 6 apartments and are looking into the future with a lot of other new projects that will expand the ideas of tenements now-a-days. Every corner of this museum is amazing, a space were you let go your imagination and go back in time. It’s a beautiful time capsule in the Lower East Side.

It’s a great and amazing experience that everyone should visit.

(clarisallaneza)

Kandinsky at Guggenheim

Museums are the places where the audience experiences the aura of the artwork, and more like a whole atmosphere at the museum talks about the artwork the space contains.

Today I visited Guggenheim to see Kandinsky‘s life work exhibition. His oil paintings are arranged in a chronological order of earlier at the bottom and later at the top. The visitors are told to go to the top first and follow the path to go down, and experience Kandinsky’s work in backward of chronological order, like a rewind of his life.

My favorite part of this exhibition was, because Kandinsky’s work was part of Guggenheim’s permanent collection, and all his artwork somehow reflect the characteristics of Guggenheim Museum. His works’ geometrical shapes reflect Guggenheim’s windows and its structures, his works’ fluidity reflect the museum’s spatial flow of one big circulation and how other circulations follow. I believe this harmony worked because of the open space of the museum where I always could see the painting, the audience, and the space. I somehow felt this exhibition gives people the uniqueness and personality of Guggenheim Museum, and I felt it is quite important for museums to give more engagement with audience through exhibition.

(eriyamage)