Thursday, August 6, 2009

What exactly are we looking for when we roam as tourists around museums?

in the nytimes, michael kimmelman argues that our ever-scrolling culture has gotten accustomed to seeing whatever we want whenever we want and, therefore, can't fully appreciate that which is before us, without checking the labels. which brings me back to a line in a short story by james russel lowell: "the truth is, we think lightly of nature's penny shows, and estimate what we see by the cost of the ticket." whether you agree or disagree with mr. kimmelman, his reflection on a his recent visit to the louvre is painstakingly familiar, and his argument is worth bearing in mind the next time you "do" a gallery.

read the article in it's entirety here:At Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus. here are some quotes i pulled:

A few game tourists glanced vainly in guidebooks or hopefully at wall labels, as if...[it] might help them see what was, plain as day, just before them.

Almost nobody, over the course of that hour or two, paused before any object for as long as a full minute.

Cameras replaced sketching by the last century... the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look.

Slow looking, like slow cooking, may yet become the new radical chic.

Recently, I bought a couple of sketchbooks to draw with my 10-year-old in St. Peter’s and elsewhere around help us look more slowly and carefully at what we found...I almost hesitate to mention our sketching. It seems pretentious and old-fogeyish in a cultural moment when we can too easily feel uncomfortable and almost ashamed just to look hard.

If you have ever gone to a museum with a good artist you probably discovered that they don’t worry so much about what art history books or wall labels tell them is right or wrong, because they’re selfish consumers, freed to look by their own interests

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