As a museologist I have spent many hours observing people looking at art, either for my studies or for work or just for my own damn pleasure. If you remember my post from last year, then you know I am sort of obsessed with this topic, especially when it comes to museum visitors viewing art through mobile devices. But what about the response to famous art? Grant Wood’s American Gothic is probably America’s most well-known painting. People first became aware of this particular image, not by visiting a museum, but by the oversaturation of the media. About 50 years ago The Beverly Hillbillies were on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post posed as the American Gothic couple. The number of parodies continued, from the opening scene of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Paris Hilton’s The Simple Life (remember that shit?) that at this point who doesn’t “get” the reference? When this happens, art is no longer art, but a commodity. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all Theodor Adorno on you. It’s the theoretical bullshit of my MA talking here. Speaking of Adorno, I once wrote (or should say I was forced to write) an essay in graduate school specifically comparing Adorno’s theories to art in museums. The public doesn’t understand why they value a piece like American Gothic, only that they’ve “seen” it before; it’s so familiar to them that it must *be* important. Although the painting debuted at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930 (and has been on display ever since) I’ll never forget rolling my eyes as a couple argued over whether or not they were seeing the original American Gothic. The wife kept saying, “Oh no! It must be a copy.” The husband was, like, “Are you sure? I guess we’ll never know.” Ignore the fact that they’re standing in one of the world’s most famous art museums with one of the country’s most famous paintings. After a lifetime of seeing it reproduced in virtually every way they, in their minds, can’t possibly be viewing the real thing.
Happy Hanukkah from the #BKMLibrary! Today, we commemorate the eight-day Jewish holiday, also known as the ‘Festival of Lights,’ by highlighting a wonderful past exhibition at the Museum; Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics from the Roman Empire. This exhibition featured a mosaic floor from the first ancient synagogue to be discovered in the Mediterranean basin, at Hammam Lif, Tunisia; these mosaics entered the Museum collection in 1905. The mosaic pieces are breathtaking; many featuring detailed depictions of the menorah, perfectly fitting for Hanukkah.
One of the most outstanding images comes from Revue archéologique, a book from the Wilbour Library collection. The image “La Mosaïque de Hammam-Lif. Vue d’ensemble” represents Corporal Peco’s watercolor of the entire sanctuary floor, published in 1884. “The mosaic was oriented so that the worshipper must stand facing toward the east, and thus Jerusalem, while viewing it… and a donor’s inscription flanked on each side by a menorah” (Bleiberg, 2005). The inscription is thought by scholars to read: “Your servant, Julia Nap., at her own expense, paved the holy synagogue of Naro with mosaic for her salvation.”
Museo Rufino Tamayo Location: Mexico City (Parque de Chapultepec) Cost: $19 Mexican pesos (Free on Sunday)
Another popular museum located in the heart of Mexico City that was originally founded in 1981 by Oaxacan Artist Rufino Arellanes Tamayo and was built through his personal efforts and was one of the first major museums in Mexico to have been built through private funding. The museum initially housed Tamayo personal collection and artwork but through the years has expanded and grown to incorporate work from rising artist and a rotation of popular exhibits from artist from all over the world. The museum has housed works by famous artist like Picasso, Noguchi, Motherwell, Miro, Magritte and currently housing the works famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and her infinity collection as well as the works of renown contemporary artist Pablo Vargas Lugo.
The museum continues to grow in popularity and welcomes thousands of visitors monthly due to its collection of contemporary arts from both abroad and upcoming artist of Mexican nationality and also in part to its proximity to popular museums like the Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Modern Art, Castillo de Chapultepec (National Museum of History) and its location in Chapultepec Park, one of the most popular and visited areas in Mexico. An excellent museum to get lost in for a day trip in Mexico with various collections to view.