As I’m just getting started in my studies as a community art major, I’m really interested in thinking about what is considered art, especially who gets to determine what is “worth” spending our time looking at.
Yesterday I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, a world famous museum of art and design over in West London. And it was incredible. I basically walked around in awe for three hours, with heart eyes like a lovesick cartoon character, trying to take it all in.
My favorite rooms were the Cast Courts, huge galleries of plaster reproductions of some of the most significant monuments of medieval and Renaissance Europe, including works by Michelangelo. The sculptures were made in the 19th century, allowing common middle class people as well as artists and designers, who were unable to travel abroad, to view and study these masterpieces.
The gallery included artwork from all over the world, and it was interesting looking at Islamic art while studying its history and practices. Islamic religious art is rather simplistic, but artifacts related to the home and hospitality, such as dish ware and rugs, are beautifully ornate and delicate in design.
I was also a huge sucker for all of the stained glass windows.
Earlier this week, I visited Whitechapel Gallery, a well-known modern art museum that boasts of at one point hosting works by Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, Kahlo, and other famous artists before they became famous. A lot of exhibits were in transition while I was there, so there wasn’t as much to see, but their children’s commission really caught my eye. Titled The Name of Fear, the instillation features capes designed by Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander and explores the fears of children, from death, clowns, and bees, to many other things.
Finally, the other day I visited the Serpentine Gallery at Hyde Park, over in West London near Buckingham Palace. The main gallery was closed, but its outdoor exhibition, a structure made of poles and shiny cellophane-type material, was open on its front lawn. I loved it because it was participatory, inviting viewers to wander through its odd pathways and become drenched in rainbow light.
So which of these is art? All of them? Is older, classic art more important than art made today? Does your art only matter if you have status attached to it, and know the right influential people?
Personally, I’m really drawn to paintings by artists like William Turner and Vincent van Gogh, as well as current art that invites the common person to participate. I don’t have the patience for photography, or video, or sculpture, but I know a lot of people that do, and their work is beautiful.
I think we get stuck when we start saying what art is and isn’t. But I do think that to be meaningful, and worthy of spending time with, it should speak truth.
What art speaks to you?