I used to be neutral, or maybe slightly negative on museums. There was something pleasant about being in them, but I didn't really know what I was supposed to do there, and always felt like I was doing it wrong.
And it turned out I was doing them wrong. I was introduced to a guy who is now one of my close friends, Nick Gray, who hosted guided tours of the Met. I actually delayed meeting him for a while, because a tour of the museum sounded very boring to me.
When I did, though, I saw the museum through a different lens. It didn't matter what I was supposed to do at a museum. It was a public resource that I could use in any way I wanted. Nick's Museum Hack tours were irreverent and fun, and focused on the less famous pieces of art in the museum, but gave a lot more context on them.
Now I have my own way to enjoy museums, which is heavily influenced from what I've learned through Nick (I thought it was exactly the same, but now I find that when we go to museums we do it differently).
The biggest thing I learned from him is that the goal isn't to see everything. If you see everything you will necessarily be disappointed because you will either spend so little time on any given piece that you get nothing out of the experience, or you will be exhausted. I usually go to a museum for 45-60 minutes.
The first thing I do is I go look for things that I already know I like. I like to walk through all or most of the areas of the museum, but I just glance at everything and see if anything catches my eye. If it doesn't, I just keep going.
If something does seem interesting, I will stop and check it out and read the information about it. Often the information will get me more interested and I might look around for similar things. I also try to mentally note artists I like. If I keep seeing the same artist after a few museums, I might look them up and try to read more.
Through this process, I develop favorites. There are certain things that I will go try to see no matter which museum I'm at: woodblock prints, Goryeo dynasty celadon, John Singer Sargent, Miró, Russian malechite, Vermeer, Rembrandt, any teaware, James Turrell, John Cederquist, and some others. Having a few things you like gives you a reason to go to museums and criss-cross around to explore and find new stuff.
You'll also find stuff you don't like. I really don't like tapestries, most religious art, southeast asian art, or most contemporary art. Nothing wrong with any of it, it's just not for me. So I tend to breeze through those areas pretty quickly.
You can also enjoy just about anything in a museum by thinking about how difficult it would be to make it. Well, maybe not in contemporary. Or you can look at old paintings and think about what life must have been like if that's how scenes of that time were painted. Or just marvel at how expensive some of the things are and just how close you're allowed to put your face to something worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Museums are now some of my favorite places to visit when I travel. Top ones for me are the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Forside in Copenhagen, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum also in Amsterdam, Dallas Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Art, and The Met in New York. If you're near one, try breezing through it and see if anything stands out.
As you might guess from the random closet door in the middle of it, the picture is one of the walls of my little personal museum I'm building. Some day I will write a post about that, too. Bonus points if you can figure out who the artists are or what the objects are.
I must be in an art sort of mood. I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston before Christmas, and then went to the Met and Museum of Modern Art in New York after New Years. Today I even skimmed a book on drawing, but gave up after discovering the first exercise in the book wasn't enough to transform me into Picasso. Cutting out my five minute foray into fine art, here are a couple art things that might be interesting to you:
Hack the Met Tour
My friend Nick Gray has a goal of becoming the best Met tour guide in the world. I think he's already there-- I've been on two of his tours so far and can't wait to go again. He's not an official tour guide. In fact, he's as unofficial as it gets. He's been kicked out before and has to now avoid certain areas of the Met. What's cool about his tours is that although they reflect his love for the Met and the art contained within it, they're irreverent and down to earth. You're as likely to hear about how a piece was conceived as you are to hear about how he might steal it. The highlight was his trick to get to wander around the Met after it's closed, as seen in the top photo here.
His tour is free and runs twice a week on most weekends, but has limited space. If you want to go, contact him through his site or just wander around the Met and try to crash the tour. He's usually pretty open to those things.
For years people who came to my place for the first time and looked at my books would be confused. First of all the amount of them would freak people out as they never seem to take me for a reader anyway but also the selection. I'll pretty much read anything.
Now I haven't always been that way. When I was growing up I pretty much only read Stephen King. Sure, they made me read stuff by dutch authors in school but I only read that cause I had to. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I didn't like anything else, it just never occurred to me to try it. And why should I? There were enough books for me to read that I knew I would enjoy. So I would only add a new author to my reading list if I'd had exhausted the works of whatever author I was into at the time. So for a long time I didn't really expand my reading selection a lot. Only doing that when I had to.
Then one day when I was flying from London to Amsterdam my flight got delayed and my I finished my book before my flight was even boarding. As it wasn't sure when we would start boarding and there was no bookstore near the gate I was waiting at I was stuck without a book. Or rather, I did have some books that I picked up for a friend. She's an English girl that lives in Amsterdam and had given me a list of books to pick up (this is pre internet ordering. Yes, I'm that old ;) ). So technically I was only "without a book I like".
Now for some reason she decided to give me a list of romance novels so I was stuck with 7 of those. As the delay was taking ever longer I eventually opened one of them and started reading and... exactly as I expected, I hated it! Seriously, I forced myself to read the first chapter but then really couldn't handle it anymore. But about 30 minutes later I was so bored that I decided to give another one of the books a try. Again, a romance novel but this one was much better than the first one. I found myself actually getting into the book and before I knew it we were boarding, took off and landed and I was home having finished the book.
That moment though was when something changed. Although I have always known we can't see whether or not we like something (or can do something for that matter) until we've tried it, it wasn't until that moment that the message finally sunk in.