Something Old, Something New – Public History, Museums, & the World Today
Guest Post: Art and Museums with Charles Clary
As I’ve detailed before (here, here, and in random snarky comments throughout), I have a lot of feelings about art museums. Luckily, I’m engaged to an artist! I asked him to answer some questions as an artist for my understanding, and for the understanding of my readers.
I’m hoping to write more about art museums and interdisciplinary studies more in the future – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
Q. Why are art museums important?
A. Art museums are a place in which the people can enjoy the labors of the individuals capturing the feeling and the mood of a society at any particular time in history. Art collections are great and to the extent that one can amass a collection – I’m all for it. But many people lock those pieces into private collections, usually away from the society to which the art was created. Museums allow for the lending of these works to museums that can show case them prominently and within a historical context so that everyone can enjoy these precious objects.
Q. What is the difference between a gallery and a museum?
A. A gallery is run much like a business, in many cases for profit. Now, there are non-profit galleries as well as alternative space galleries and pop up galleries that seek to showcase the content of the work for free, but many galleries are set up as for-profit spaces. That’s not to say galleries are only concerned with making money, but it is a part of the art world and the experience. A museum is a place free from the pressure of sales, which allows the artist to delve deeper into their process and content, to go bigger, and to explore their work in a more challenging way.
Q. What is history’s place in art museums?
A. History is forever linked to art. Art speaks to the time in which it was created; it’s a moment captured in paint, or chisled into marble. Art has the ability to become a time capsule or a snapshot of a moment in time that we would never be able to witness without the work. History influences the creation of art, either through religion or individuals. There was often a patron who bankrolled the work, which also influenced the artist. Every great society or time period – Egyptian, Roman, Greek, European Renaissance, Middle East – is defined by the art work and utilitarian devices they created.
Q. What’s with the boring labels that tell me no history?
A. Art is an experience, not a bumper sticker. If the story is all given away in the beginning or in the title, then why spend time with the work? It’s the process of discovering what the work is about through key visuals or clues within the work that forms the narrative; it’s exciting to put two and two together. In most museum exhibitions, the entrance has a description of the artist and what might have been going on at that time in history and where the movement might have been or where it was to go. Museums also have great audio tours that attempt to quantify the work being viewed and situate it into a context that makes it make sense.
Q. Which is your favorite art museum?
A. I’m a big fan of the Pompidou in Paris France it’s a fantastic art museum that explores all aspects of contemporary art: design, sculpture, installation art, furniture design, painting so on and so forth. I also love the Louvre for the rich history of painting and sculpture. As far as galleries I’m a huge fan of Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn and what they do to advance contemporary art both in their man space as well as in their space called The Boiler meant for large scale sometimes interactive installations.
Q. Favorite history museum/site?
A. I really enjoyed the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. The stories of people, their lives, and their times had a huge impact on me, and was one of my favorite parts of our first time in Ireland. Belfast was also interesting, as a more modern historical site, and the commemorative murals there do a great job of combining memory, art, and history.
Q. How can art and history museums work together, or history museums with artists?
A. I think both need to realize that one is not more important than the other. History defines society, society defines History through art. The more they can work together to describe the advancements in technology and culture through the images and objects that are left behind the better for all involved.
Thanks, Charles! Now, tell me all about Marcel Duchamp….
What do YOU think about art and art museums? Any other artists interested in answering similar questions or engaging in a dialogue?