Thursday, January 18, 2018


I was so disturbed yesterday I was nauseous.  On my day away I went to a museum to be inspired and rejuvenated by beauty.  My disappointment knew no bounds.  Far from being inspired in my vocation and personal life, I felt cheated (mostly out of the price of admission.)  There were (granted - in my estimation) a few worthy pieces but the rest were laughable, requiring dossier length descriptions with the kicker line, “which means this piece means nothing” or something rather ridiculous that no-one would pick up on their own.  It is interesting to note that nobody was there and it was all funded by corporations.  

Then it hit me.  If the name of the institution was changed I MIGHT be less inclined to feel insulted.  Let us suppose that the name of the place to which I went was the Ohio Museum of Art.  If it were changed to the Ohio Museum of Interesting, I think I might be less inclined to be  insulted (but still a little bitter about my loss of money.)  (INTERESTING:  That which draws one's attention.  Note that this word does not infer a value judgement.)  I thought, what if this display was introduced with a sign the read in part, “Here are some objects showing some techniques and ideas that might be of interest to you.”  Seeing it in that light (making the admission that these objects, while interesting, are not necessarily pieces of art) allowed me to at least take in the displays without anger.

To be fair, I did see two other people there (the only two) who DID seem engrossed in the works - sitting and staring, not with looks of disbelief but with what appeared to be genuine interest.  (Unless, of course, I mistook them for another installation entitled Interested Museum Patrons.)  

Yes, I know I am not sophisticated enough to “get it.”  Who am I to say what art is and isn’t.  But I have a very difficult time imagining that much of this display will be around a 100 years inspiring the next generation of artists.  And I know that Rocco architecture was considered by many to be terrible when it was first introduced and now it is cherished.  But so much of what I saw yesterday appeared to me to be so self involved and un-beautiful that it did not inspire me to go out and make a more beautiful, fascinating world, but rather, a piece of me was left behind and died there.

If you agree, what can you do about it?  Support arts when you see something worthwhile.  Go see an installment you think worthy.  Make a donation.  Stop buying “art” out of catalogues and buy or commission a piece for your home.  Encourage your parish and your community to sponsor art that you deem worthwhile.  He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.  Those who support artists also influence what they create and lean.  

There is an artist I recently asked to create for me a drawing of St. Sebastian.  The work he normally does and is paid for is a bit lurid.  But I saw a lot of potential there and for at least one project he had to learn about a saint and his story and create something (once again, I know, in my opinion) beautiful  It’s a drop in the bucket - but hey - it was a drop in the bucket!


Cyndy said...

Ugh. That is so disappointing. If you have the luxury of time, it's always worthwhile to drive up to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Of course these days we seldom get any further than the "Dinosaur Museum" next door, but one day! Maybe we should put together a St. Sebastian field trip!

Annie Dixon said...

Beauty is in the eye of the witholder. If we withold our money and our presence from these 'museums of interesting' perhaps they will be pressured to display real art. However, this will require pressuring the government and the corporations to stop funding this nonsense as well because they spend a lot more on it than the price of your admission.
A couple of good books on the state of the art world: 'The $12 Million Stuffed Shark' and 'Seven Days in the Art World.'

Fr. V said...

"Beauty is in the eye of the witholder." HA! THAT IS AWESOME!