Thursday, March 18, 2010

In the Garden of the Museum

Lucas Cranach The Elder (b.Lucas Sunder in Kranach, upper Franconia, 1472-1553) Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, 1526

Back in my brief career as a museum curator, there was a saying that hummed in my head; "An exhibit should raise more questions than it answers."

It sounds decidedly theoretical. Smacks of graduate school seminars. I'm not sure that I ever truly brought it to the table in designing exhibits.

But in today's NY Times (March 18, 2010, F4) I found a related article that speaks to an educator's concern for reaching a museum audience's needs, perhaps planting questions that will remain to grow and blossom and, eventually, lead that museum visitor (or art lover or history buff) to seek more answers and a broader perspective.

And this notion will be addressed in a forthcoming book by Bonnie Pitman, director of the Dallas Museum of Art, a report that places museum visitors into four general but integrated categories, each with a preferred learning style: observer, participant, independent or enthusiast
. Her hope is that "People can really design their own [museum] experience, depending what interests them."

By way of illustration Pitman cites the current exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia: "The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874." Through audio-video, visitors can experience not only the presented works but also the exhibited artists' other works in the museum's collections, or see the process of building the exhibit, or geographical projections of the Normandy coast, and certainly that region's cuisine.

Honfleur, a seaport on the coast of Normandy, France, and a vacation spot for Henri Matisse.

In other words, what we called in graduate school (See? I told you so!) synchronic presentation.

How fruitfully that technique fits our perusal of food images in the arts. Imagine, the cuisine of Normandy!

Romare Bearden, In The Garden, 1979

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