We went to a museum in the city today to see some German and Austrian art, and I was totally game for the outing. I like museums; I’m fond of art; and I love being in the city.
It wasn’t until I was in the exhibit with the little metal clip you get as your ticket attached to my buttonhole that I realized for the millionth time what my actual relation with art exhibits is.
Unless I have someone standing next to me explaining the significance of the paintings, someone knowledgeable to talk about them with, or a child to talk to about the artwork, I get extremely bored and antsy*. Without context or a discussion, it’s just a series of pictures of people, things, or landscapes next to tiny placard with the artist’s name, the date of creation, and the medium. If I wanted to look at beautiful things, I could stare at a cat or people watch, and it wouldn’t cost me twenty-five dollars or involve a guard yelling at tourists with fannypacks for sitting on chairs that are clearly on display and not for sitting on.**
So I began doing what I normally do when I get bored: write stories in my head and compose tuneless, ridiculous songs. By the time we were seated in the café and I was eating Räucherlach mit Streichkäse (a dish that appeared to be very fancy-fied lox and cream cheese on bread), I had completed a story about orange sneakers, the subway, and vandalized movie posters and had made up dance routines to go with my new hit EP, featuring the songs “I Have Ants In My Pants,” “Why Are There So Many Naked People In This Room?” and “Egon Schiele, Your Drawings Are Disgusting. Whoever Thought They Were Museum Appropriate Was Out of Their Mind.” (I’d advise you not to look up Schiele’s drawings. They are unseemly.)
Of course, the next time that someone wants to go to an art museum and look at paintings silently, I’ll go with them cheerfully. I just can’t guarantee that I’ll be paying much attention or that I’ll be able to have a conversation about the exhibits contents without lying***.
*The only exception to this rule is modern art, which I L-O-V-E no matter the circumstances in which I’m viewing it. I have been known to park myself in front of Charter by Ellsworth Kelly for over fifteen minutes, and I have a postcard of it on my bulletein board that I stare at constantly. Also, the MOMA website has a bazillion pieces by him, which I may or may not spend an absurd amount of time looking at.
**On Tuesday, I watched someone climb onto a Roman statue to take a picture, and the guard didn’t even notice. I was going to say something to them, but they were speaking some language that sounded like Swedish or Norwegian, and I feel really bad about the attack in Oslo. So I kept my mouth shut.
***Something I proved this afternoon when my mom asked me about some of the furniture on display in one of the rooms, and I responded by saying something about what a great artist Klimpt–who, as I later discovered, does not also design furniture–was while slowly backing out of the room.