We need to give art museums the attention they deserve

*Originally posted by me on Kettlemag*

I appreciate art museums. I appreciate how they are often free or reasonably priced, how each gallery features art I never knew existed. I appreciate how there is always someone being told off for taking a photograph despite the clear “no photography” signs. Most of all, I appreciate how I can see art, up close and in gorgeous reality. I absorb each brush stroke, the spectrum of colours, the construct of material or the message conveyed in each piece.

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Wassily Kandinsky artwork.

Some people find museums, or at least the idea of them, very boring. They can be associated with silence and stiffness; and long descriptions of history that you only start reading because you feel obliged to get your money’s worth. But art museums are a feast for your eyes, your creativity. You may love the art, you may hate it, or it may make you feel indifferent. So art even leaves you feeling uncomfortable. Regardless, they make you think and feel. A wall of nothing but blue squares will make some people scream “this isn’t art!” and whilst I share the annoyance of what seems like lazy creation, art is merely anything which creates a reaction; annoyance being one of them.

This is why art museums need to stay – and we need to learn to love them more.

Visiting art museums is a very private experience for me. The last time I did so, I was in Madrid, around a month ago. During my five months there I made four trips to different art museums. This is above average for me, but I made time for it not only as a tourist but because I find the experience therapeutic.

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A painter for Pinta Malasana

I can pinpoint three particularly satisfactory trips to art museums. One took place in the Van Gogh exhibit in Amsterdam. The visit was slow, mainly quiet and shared with people who wanted to be there too. As one of my favourite artists, looking at Van Gogh’s paintings and sketches felt like looking into his life, his motivations. The same happened to me in a Wassily Kandinsky Exhibition in Madrid. Being another one of my favourite artists, I didn’t want to miss out and so I went there alone. Which turned out to be a great decision. When I look at art that I like in museums I become one of those pensive looking people who stare at a single painting for a prolonged period of time. Being alone means I don’t have to worry that my obsession with the piece’s construction or analysing how it was created is boring anybody.

The final visit was to ‘Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía’, which is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art, with my parents. It comprises part of the “Golden Triangle of Art”, earning its popularity through the impressive range of art on offer. Mainly showcasing Spanish art, the most famous pieces are made by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, This experience included a lot of laughter, mainly caused by my dad’s reaction to all of the modern and contemporary art in the temporary exhibits. Many of the pieces, and the grandeur of the place itself, are still fresh in my memory.

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I would miss this chance to truly connect with great art immensely. Coming from the small town of West Bromwich there isn’t much art to see, but being local to Birmingham means I rely on their art museums greatly. If they closed down it would signal to me the end of an era. The end of a way of viewing art and celebrating people’s life works. Art isn’t something that can be digitalised in the way we have with shopping and reading books. Sure, it’s possible to look at art online, without leaving your home, but this isn’t how it should be seen. Art is for the naked eye to feast upon. From old renaissance paintings with their intense realism, to religious depictions and the modern day impressionism or installations, all art needs a human presence to be truly understood.

Museums are the prime way for artists to have their art viewed by the public, and thus the only way to give it the exposure that it needs. If this ceases to happen, the necessity for creating art falls dramatically.

Sure, visiting museums or galleries takes time, effort and sometimes money. But in a technology-crazed world, art galleries are a remaining slice of, albeit fantastical, reality.

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