Saturday, October 10, 2009

Important facts about art

1. Read this essay: a eulogy for Cookie magazine by my very own sister.

2. If you are planning to see the Vermeer show at the Met -- which is organized around the visiting masterpiece "The Milkmaid," and which runs between now and November 29 -- don't go when it's crowded. Do what you have to do to go when nobody else will be there, like on a Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Because these are small pictures, and if you can't get close to them you might as well just go to the gift shop and look at the larger poster-size reproductions. I went yesterday at noon, thinking I'd beat the weekend crowds, but the place was a zoo. I can't say I was able to peacefully contemplate the play of light and shadow in Vermeer's little canvases while surrounded by people pushing and jostling and spacing out while listening to their audio guides and asking the guards, "Is there glass over top of this?" (And don't get me started on people who take pictures of everything they see in museums, because what is up with THAT.) I got the most out of my visit by retreating to the Medieval galleries and spending most of my time there. But the Vermeer show is small and cramped and really not worth the admission fee if you can't stand right in front of the paintings for as long as you like.

3. If you do go to the Met, especially when it's crowded, try to find your way to the "Visible Storage" area (which, on their not-really-all-that-helpful maps, is labeled "Henry R. Luce Center"). It's up some stairs in the back right corner on the first floor, and it's where they keep the American art they don't have on display. It's lined up in cases in this sort of friendly warehouse atmosphere, so you can walk up and down the rows and try to take it in. Lots of great paintings back there, plus furniture and many rows of fine silver and glassware and such. Spoons, old-timey baseball cards... It's like the world's greatest flea market. Plus it was a quiet spot in a museum otherwise packed with tourists.

Well, it was almost quiet. There was one guy there who was talking VERY LOUDLY to his companions, and intent on showing off his vast knowledge of art history (which, spoiler alert, was not really all that vast). So that was irritating, but it all paid off when he stumbled upon the case of American impressionists. "Mary Cassatt," he read from one of the identifying labels. "I thought that was Mary Cassatt!" Then, in his most professorial tone, he announced: "She was one of the first lesbians." On the other side of the case, I burst out laughing. Yeah, I... really don't think that's true.

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