October 27, 2020

Metropolitam Museum: between the album and digital migration | Babelia


The latest definition of “museum” signed just now a year ago at the Kyoto ICOM forum – something like a summit of the cultural climate for the directors of the most important collections in the world— he says that “they are democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue (…) they contribute to human dignity, social justice and planetary well-being”, from which we could deduce that the museum, in addition to being relational, wants to be ideal, The true imaginary museum!

Now that they wake up from a forced lethargy of almost four months, with an audience that goes by dropper and is more closely monitored than ever, it seems appropriate to ask whether museums are really more than just a place – their architecture, their collection, their staff, their visitors, his democratizing ideal — or, conversely, a most essential encyclopedic album of the human species, “the sophisticated high of courage” (Barthes said of the family album) treasured for centuries with maximum zeal in a box.

One of the most extraordinary in the world, the Metropolitan of New Yorkreceives seven million visitors annually and 15 million more explore its successful website The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. With a collection of two million works and 19 departments, each with its own team of specialists, the Met will celebrate its 150th anniversary in two years and 20 of its version on-line. The gift has arrived in advance: the volume ART =, a fabulous copy – a unicorn! -, hybrid of a sticker album and algorithmic memory of the images most visited / downloaded by Internet users over the last two decades, told by chapters, theme groups, sections and essays. The edition (in English, published by Phaidon) displays 900 illustrations accompanied by brief descriptions and visual codes that relate them to each other from different points of view and classifications (objects, portraits, materials, techniques, styles, geographies, periods).

Inner pages of the book 'Art =
Inner pages of the book “Art =”.

It is not a customary taxonomy since the diversity of “stories”, new denominations or perspectives with which art can be interpreted has been taken into account, and appears at a time when the presidency and executive management of the most visited gallery. of the city respond to internal pressure against discrimination and abuse BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) with a statement highlighting its vocation for public service and a complementary budget of between 12 and 15 million dollars that will serve to economically endow initiatives against racism and systemic sexism in the form of purchases, exhibitions, contracting and training of personal. It remains to be seen how this ideal / utopian will congenues and the events of a rather cacotopic reality: weeks before, Max Hollein (director of the collections) recognized that the museum was facing losses of $ 100 million, not counting the cost (a minimum of 600 million) from the expansion project of the southwest wing of the building, designed by David Chipperfield.

Whether or not a debacle occurs in the global museum – in the best of cases an integration / fusion of the smaller collections into the larger ones is foreseen – it is important to highlight that ART =, in perfect conjunction with digital formats, is a bulwark for after the shipwreck, and from there to childhood memories there is very little: that album of childhood stickers, The world of painting (Editorial Difusora de la Cultura, 1967), the high school art classes with films and the annual visit to the Prado and the Louvre with the lesson learned, and there each, without queues or crowds in rooms.

ART = It is one more step in that fold of space / time that forces us to face history from multiple perspectives in the face of the transmigration of cultural signs, an encyclopedic machine for thinking images very similar to that devised by Aby Warburg in her atlas Nnemosyne, which is put together again and again through the game of associations (and, by the way, never ended, as it should be).

Examples of “artistic families” are Cézanne’s card players in dynamics with a Dutch board game (XV), an Iranian chess (XII), and another from ancient Egypt; the daguerreotype of Frederick Douglass (1855), a prominent publisher and activist for the rights of the black population (he himself escaped slavery) along with a portrait of his contemporary, the Countess of Castiglione, the mysterious femme fatale who was sent to France by Napoleon III to convince him of support for Italian unification.

In photography / color, the demolitions and cuts of Matta-Clark buildings and the “collapses” of the Ballade of Sexual Dependency, from the American Nan Goldin, the artist who put the Sackler family in check, owner of Purdue Pharma (Oxycontin) and one of the most active patrons of American museums. The popular Hokusai wave with Mount Fuji in the background shares a page with the aggressive snapshots of Daido Moriyama; and the calm of a family interior by Bonnard looks at Seurat’s delicate drawing of a foal in the backwater of a shady landscape. On the concepts most sought by Internet users, “motherhood” (and not “fatherhood”) and “female artists” (and not “male artists”) stand out. “Latin American art”, still used today as a political term, is expanded to include works by artists from South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico.

In the section dedicated to animals, a photograph of a baby armadillo —correto of the antihero King Ubú made by Dora Maar in 1936 — relates to the naturalistic drawing of a flying fox from India —or fruit bat, from the school of the painter Bhawani Das, XVIII— which unfolds one wing and gathers the other; Veins and muscles, its very long five fingers and its lower claws are clearly visible under the coat. It seems that she is going to start a dance before dying (the Chinese used to use their heads to cure the evil eye). Take a good look at it and think of Dora Maar’s surreal pangolin, because this is the image that connects everything, and connects us.

Art =. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Phaidon, 2020. 448 pages. 69.95 euros.

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