I like going to art museums. Back in school, we would often visit galleries around town typically for a juried show. My stuff never made it in any of them but I went to see my classmates work. But galleries are typically designed to sell the works, and you won’t see the same show on the walls twice.
Museums on the other hand all have a permanent collection, owned by the org itself or perpetually on loan from a collector. You can go in on any given day and see the same pieces you’ve seen from when you were a kid.
Unlike a gallery which is clean and new and offers you a drink in hopes you want to buy something that day – borderline car dealerships in some cases – the museum is just stoked that you showed up that day. You have to pay to get in, there is a cafe with chicken salad sandwiches and soups – stuff that wont make the whole place smell like food, and the all important gift shop.
The bigger museums have prints from their collection for sale, or stuff from a traveling exhibition. Back in 2011 I took the boys to the McNay Museum in San Antonio because there was an Andy Warhol collection on loan for a while. An entire wing of the place was wall to wall with Marilyn’s, soup cans, drawings, photos, a sampling of everything he had done. Most folks were there that day for the exhibition, and I had gone in the middle of the week so we had most of the place to ourselves. The folks working there were excited to tell you little facts about the pieces in the room – “This is the oldest painting we have!” “Look how tiny these byzantine paintings are!” It’s such a fun thing.
In college we visited the Kimbell Museum in Forth Worth a few times to see either a specific exhibition or walk around and look at stuff that was in our Art History books. They have greek pottery, statues, japanese woodcuts, and several dozen endgame artists stuff.
I’ve never been to one of the bigger museums up in New York or in Europe with grail artwork – but someday.
Then here is the little art museum I walked past every day on my way to class in college. Even with classes at 8am the parking lots would be full by 7:30 which meant I had to park on the furthest parking lot and walk a good twenty minutes to the main buildings. Along that trek was a small brick building that housed a small art museum. Even though its small and doesn’t have all the fancy Name Brand art the others do, it still totally made you feel like you were in a museum.
By that I mean while cozy and intimate you get the sense of distance between yourself and the works on the walls. Most existed before you, are not for sale, and are more valuable than anything you can ever make. You comfortably don’t belong there. The architecture was cutting edge for the mid 1960’s – again a time removed from you that you are now technically brought into in the present. You want to wander around and sit and look out all the floor to ceiling glass windows and walk up the over engineered red brick stairs.
We all love the museum, the museum loves when we visit. But we don’t belong there.