Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Museums talk

It seems nowadays that most of the second-tier museums have relied on special exhibition which are of great success in bring intense examination of interesting topics, but overall the museums will be remembered by their permanent collections.

Walking in Met’s permanent collection is like walking in a maze with endless findings and excitement: sometimes too many good things can be a bad thing. My legs are still heavy two days after a tour in Met, or more precisely a five-hour walk in American Wing at Met.

Just in American Decorative Art section alone, there are 25 period rooms and more than 600 pieces of furniture. When I saw those chairs, side tables were piled inside rows of rows of glass display, I kind of felt sorry for them. Only Met has the luxury to pack them together, although the beauty of the furniture should really be appreciated in a proper setting like those period rooms or like what Chicago Art Institute does: group them together based on function and style such that each set provides meaningful context.

I would definitely go back to revisit Met in future, although the same attachment may not apply to Carnegie Museum of Art even though it is only four or five blocks away from where I work.

Although it is true that most of art museums are suffering from the redirection of donation and charity, museums themselves should also be blamed as places of bureaucracy. From another perspective, second-tier museums should re-think what to present and what to purchase in future. There are only 35 paintings by Vermeer and a little bit more than 300 by Rembrandt, and most Impressionism art followers would go to Chicago for its huge collection. A walk through Carnegie Museum of Art brings you some interests yet also makes you lost and wondering what is the strength of the museum. Often, you will see art works crammed in juxtaposition with no direct linkage. Or within ten meters walk, you immediately crossed three century as for artistic style.

Just one hour away, Westmorland Museum of American Art hosts a full room for Scalp Level painters which immediately brings the visitors to the past of Western Pennsylvania rural scenes. Other paintings also make a strong statement of the museum’s dedication to the western PA. Aaron Gorson’s powering and gripping descriptions of steel mills along Monongahela River recall Pittsburgh at his climax, Christian Walter’s works shows his profound love of his hometown in Depression era. I have always enjoyed visiting there, even when I had to walk on crutch and sit on a wheel chair last year for “Born of Fire” exhibition.

Pittsburghers should puff out his chest with pride about the city, its past, its present and its future. If the native’s own view is often subconsciously largely negative and deprecate the city, how can visitors be persuaded to find the beauty without prejudice? Maybe the museums can start doing something first.

No comments: