Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Art That Says: “Psst, hey you!”

I read this article last week in the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled “Art: Don’t Forget the Whisper.” It’s an opinion piece written by an art critic about the proposed renovations and expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art designed by Frank Gehry – but the introduction shares a visitor experience that resonates with me. It begins with the author recalling a museum experience he had at the tender age of 15 and a quote from Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch:

“You can have a lifetime of perfectly sincere museumgoing where you traipse around enjoying everything and then go out and have some lunch. But . . . if a painting works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘Oh I love this picture because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey, kid. Yes, you.”

What I like about this article, and why I wanted to share it, is the two-fold approach to “the visitor experience.” At first read, the author describes a very personal interaction with a piece of art that because of the way he describes it, seems like such a personal moment would be outside of an organizations ability to craft. But a few sentences later, the author is encouraging readers and visitors to think about the proposed renovations and how they might interrupt or enhance that personal moment. He calls on the trustees and museum administrators to preserve these sacred moments and the mission of their museum. I think this is a great example of the complexity of decisions arts organizations face.

What do others think of the complex issue (way beyond the lemonade stand!) of museum renovations and expansions?

Capturing Visitor Immersion

Capturing Visitor Immersion


3 comments on “Art That Says: “Psst, hey you!”

  1. benjamendouglas
    August 27, 2014

    So, I just commented on the other post of this article – but I have two things to add:

    – I loved the Goldfinch. (Donna’s from the Mississippi Delta, after all!)
    – This sentence really struck me: “what is proposed is artless in every sense.” Which reminded me of something I noticed today at the Corcoran: above the main entrance are the words “Dedicated to Art.” What an interesting contrast.

  2. evanjsanderson
    August 27, 2014

    I’ve never thought about the relationship in an art museum between space and experience. We’re learning about this fellow called Edward Hall in Intercultural Relations class, and he proposes an idea called ‘proxemics’ – as far as I can tell, it’s a modality about how space works in culture (i.e. how close we get in interactions.) Maybe as our culture changes we also need to think things like proximity and spatial relationship to art?

  3. cayleycarroll
    August 28, 2014

    In my opinion the architectural space of a museum should compliment the work being showcased the same way a picture frame should support the aesthetic of the piece it frames. According to the author of this article, it seems the people of the Museum of Art are more concerned with the logistics of the building: traffic flow, capacity and accessibility than the patron’s experience. I hope they find a balance between the atmosphere and the systematization of the building.

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