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Saturday, 28 March 2020


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My first visit to see the Mona Lisa, I had the room literally all to myself. Years later, my wife and I had decided to see the Mona Lisa and were shocked to see the crowds. We walked in the room, struggled for a bit to get closer then decided that it was not worth the scrum to get to the front. I turned around to see my wife texting her sister that she was “admiring the Mona Lisa with 65,000 of our fellow humans”. https://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/2017/10/the-louvre/

It is one of my very most favorite images ever shot.

When I taught school in Chicago I was not far from the Art Institute. On Thursdays, admission was free and I was finished with school at 2:30 so it was easy for me to go. I went whenever the show changed and was exposed to most of the greats. It was quite an education.

Also, the owner of the top b/w pro processing company sold his firm at a very good profit. He had a vacant building close to Helix on the north side that he turned into a gallery. He had very good connections. I remember a W. Eugene Smith exhibit. I spent most of a Sunday afternoon looking at his prints up close and personal. It was an almost religious experience as the gallery was not very busy and I stood amongst the prints in solitude.

thank-you your discussion made this worth the wait

When I was fifteen or so, I took a school trip to Paris, and our group saw the Mona Lisa. Similar settings, similar conditions. Given the continual fixation on this one painting, placing the work of other artists in the same room in some ways denigrates their paintings and memory. The other pieces will have their own qualities, but very few visitors are ever even conscious of their existence.

Somewhere ... SOMEwhere .... around here I think I have a picture like the Louvre one, but taken in 2000 with my Canon AE1, and perhaps on B&W film. I can guarantee that there were no cellphones being used, and no selfies.

Nice post, Mike. Your comments about people trying to get the most of their very expensive museum tickets are spot on. I was talking about this with my son not long ago. The Met used to have a policy that the price was “suggested”, so you could either pay full price or whatever you could pay. Now that policy changed and you are charged full price. Not sure I agree with it. The Met has a lot of works that were given to them for free in order to give all the people a chance to enjoy them. The Gelman Collection comes to mind, for example. I think that people should be charged as in a parking lot, full first hour and then on 15 minute increments. A lot of people go the museum to get the selfie and buy a souvenir in the shop.
Reading Larry’s comments reminded me when I used to have a layover in Chicago. We used to stay in The Palmer House, not far from The Art Institute. They had the same policy as The Met and I took full advantage of it. Paying maybe a third of the suggested price and then going to see the 4 or 5 paintings I loved. In and out in about one hour. A visit to Central Camera in Wabash Ave was also a required stop.

I tend to not take pictures in galleries or museums. That's not why I've gone there.... In the case of 'Tired', if I'd taken that shot my mind would subsequently be full of thoughts about the girl rather than the art, especially if she was a family member (which she almost certainly would be - taking pictures of stranger children is Not On these days, I've found).

Of course, it's not an inflexible rule, and I always have a camera with me - the phone - so I can take a picture if i really want to. But truthfully, I prefer to buy a book about the art from the shop, especially if I've been to an exhibition rather than just been visiting the regular galleries. I don't think I've ever taken a DSLR into a gallery of museum.

And of course, on the occasions when I do try to take a picture, I run straight into the main problem with doing so - there are too many people, often the space is constrained (which is strange, given that often galleries can apparently be humungous), and of course the light is all wrong. So I generally find that it's best to spend my time appreciating and understanding the art.

Mike, you wrote "It was one of the great things about going to art school in downtown Washington, D.C.: a lot of museums are open to the public, so you can pop in and out."

Unfortunately, these days you can't just pop in and out as everyone has to go through security checks and put their belongings through metal detectors, which creates long lines that typically go "around the corner" (often literally).

Your memory of popping into DC museums for a quick visit is like my memory of arriving at the airport 10-15 minutes before my flight and still getting on the plane: no longer possible, alas.

[Sorry...I stand corrected. I left DC in 1993 and haven't been back since. I really do hope I can see it again someday. --Mike]

I agree about cramming too much into one museum visit--my limit is about an hour and a half before my brain fuzzes over. And I love museums!

Also, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a wonderful museum. Visiting Buenos Aires was a high point.

Actually worth waiting for!

[Don't encourage my bad behavior. :-) --Mike]

“ So if I were Benjamin Kelley I would have just moved to the side a bit to set his daughter's whole head against the lighter background of the wall.”

I disagree. You seem more interested in the mechanics of printing than the aesthetics of seeing. With the child’s head following the angle of the shadow it appears natural to me. I had to stop and relook only after I read your comment. Benjamin, IMO, it is perfect the way it is.

I had simply forgotten about this project.

Imagine my surprise when I got up in the morning after working last night on a photo from the Worcester Art Museum last Fall to see this post.

Old and New

Shot as seen. Not a multiple exposure, superposition, etc. Anyone familiar with the top floor of the WAM will understand how this juxtaposition happened.

How museums and galleries have changed! Ken makes an interesting observation that you can no longer pop into one for a quick visit. An extreme example of “popping” is that I used to work North of The British Museum and sometimes shop at lunchtime South of it and so used to pop in at the front entrance, walk through various galleries and out the back entrance on my way back if not short of time. I suppose that’s impossible now :( .

Photo 1 - I actually prefer the composition as is without any separation of the two elements - but hey(!), its' not my shot so who cares what I think?

Photo 2- is the man sitting cross-legged on the ground? How low are those paintings hanging? No wonder the standing figure is hunched.

Photo 3- I took pretty much exactly the same shot (as I imagine many have), except I cropped mine into a panorama. When I took it a few years ago, I was in Paris for work (from Melbourne, Oz) and managed to tack on a vacation with my wife. But my colleague travelled the whole dang 16,781 km (thanks, Mr Google) for two meetings over two days and then all the way back! On his last (third) day, he had 2 1/2 hours before he had to leave for CDG airport for the afternoon return flight. So he got up early and waited first in the queue for the Louvre to open, having carefully mapped a route to each of the Da Vinci's on display at the time (about 7 or 8 ). When the doors opened, he belted as fast as he could straight to the Mona Lisa, and got a good 10 minutes on his own before the hoards arrived. Then off he went straight to the next da Vinci and had his own 10 minutes - then, ditto, through all the da Vinci's. He then just had time for a leisurely stroll through the then packed galleries looking at exhibits on his way to the exit; suitcase from hotel, into a waiting taxi, and to the airport for home...

This post seems to start in the middle of a discussion ... has the introductory paragraph been omitted in error? Or am I being dense?

[I see...I tried to fix that now, with a few words of introduction and an explanation in the footnote. Hope that will help others not to feel as you did. Thanks for the feedback Neil. --Mike]

The photo by B.Kelley is a masterpiece. The child's body language, the angle of the light across the frame, and the complimentary angle on the floor. Wow!

Vis-a-vis the packed room with the Mona Lisa, I remember being in the room and the Mona Lisa's eyes seemed to follow me as I walked around. That was in the 1960's. Those really were better times.

Mike, I was expecting something quite different for the museum photo's--well worth the wait.

So pleased to be included! Thank you!

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