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Museum of Contemporary Art: instructions for use.
25 January 2019
Visit museums being conscious of your aims and your life (and you) will change.
The world is full of museums – the most diverse in terms of the date of foundation, size, type, purpose and
cost of admission. In some of them there are constant queues, in others – the crowd of visitors cannot be
seen frequently (in Ukraine it is, unfortunately, a common case). But I would like to talk about art museums, in particular, museums of contemporary art. To visit such a place turned out to be an interesting, bright and productive experience for you, you need to know some
nuances, which I intend to share with you. But first let’s imagine some common variants of “I’m in the
Something brought you here. There is always a purpose that determines your behavior in the museum.
(Art professionals (artists, curators, art historians, gallery owners, all my colleagues) often come to
museums not out of curiosity or hobby – this is an essential part of their work, so this article is unlikely to
be interesting to them. I write for such important and expected in any museum – visitors!)
The Self-improvement aim: you are interested in art and have planned a visit to the museum to see a
certain exhibition. You went by plane to a particular city, to a particular museum, since it is this curator /
artist / genre / direction that interests you. For you it is customary: you plan and fill your leisure time
studying art and investing resources in your intellectual development. You know exactly what you want
to get from visiting the museum. You do not miss the tablets, carefully read all the information about the
exhibition and participants, use an art-guide or take a tour.
The Check-in aim. Perhaps you are looking for new experiences. You have heard, read about art and now
visiting museums is in fashion and considered progressive. You prepared in advance, collected
information about the principal works, authors, exhibitions that you need to see. You go through the halls,
looking for that very masterpiece. You take a selfie with this work on the background and share it to
social networks with a special comment and a hashtag. You put a tick in the conventional list and satisfied
hurry to meet new impressions.
The Meditation aim. You get pleasure from being in museum halls. Come at a time when there is no
crowd of noisy tourists. You have a favorite hall, where exactly the work hangs, opposite to which you
can sit for hours and feel pacification from realizing that not everything disappears with time, from
aesthetic pleasure, peace and silence. After recovering your strength, you leave the museum to return to
the normal rhythm of life outside its walls.
In the works of contemporary artists and curators you will find not just information, but a reflection on
what is happening in our world and in our era.
But there can be no aim at all. You got into the museum by accident, walk through the halls
accompanying your friend art lover. And here you are painfully waiting, when the boring monologue of
the guide ends or, on the contrary, surprised that have neglected this information so far. You listen with
enthusiasm and even ask questions.
Or maybe your potential client has chosen a table for a business lunch in the museum restaurant. And
after the meeting, you decided to walk around the halls. You wanted to collect your thoughts, but caught
yourself thinking that it was in a museum, in a sterile white cube filled with objects so incomprehensible
and seemingly detached from reality, where you were distracted from business concerns. You read the
works descriptions, titles, comments of curators and experts. Trying to focus on the concept of works, you
conclude that life is fleeting and our working routine is full of empty and meaningless things, if there is
no choice, no self-realization and possibility to make your personal contribution.
Contemporary art is an effective conductor of progressive and relevant ideas to a wide range of museum
visitors. Any of us has our own background knowledge, experience, opinions, rumors, stereotypes. And
you bring it coming to the exhibition. Analyzing the motives of your visit you can take out the maximum.
So my call to you: visit museums being conscious of your aims and your life (and you) will change. You
can manage it by your own. In the contemporary world there are more and more information sources,
especially Internet broadcasting. We know about wars, disasters, refugees, terrorist attacks, hunger and
poverty, about consumerism, the thirst for power, about the depletion of earth resources, the problems of
ecology, and this list is endless. But the possession of information is not yet an understanding or
awareness of what is happening. In the works of contemporary artists and curators you will find not just
information, but a reflection on what is happening in our world and in our era.
The function of art – transmitting to the next generation information about the period in which it is created
– is not lost but becoming increasingly important. And even if you are shocked or annoyed with the
installation of a contemporary artist seen in the museum – this is a fortune. Because news line on TV
overloaded with daily routine and affairs often remain just a background.
You are already in the museum, in the so-called "white cube", the temple of contemporary art. How can
you behave here to feel comfortable, get the maximum effect, and so such visits to the world of art
become part of your life?
1. The museum of contemporary art is usually based on a solid foundation, consisting of complex
interrelationships between different communities / clans of artists, curators, galleries, auction houses and
other art institutions, educational and research institutions and, of course, collectors (see my previous
blog). The state or private capital finances a museum’s collection, a building for its display, as well as the
implementation of the museum mission. Before you go to the museum, find out more about it. This is
simply done by wandering through the museum website.
2. From the website you can easily learn about current exhibitions and decide for yourself what you
would like to see. Prepare before visit, read information about artists, listen and watch their video
3. It is not necessary to bypass all the halls and exhibitions of the museum for one visit. Your legs can not
withstand such a load. In museums you can see visitors sitting on the floor or lying on benches. After all,
when we move from one object to another, then we stop, then we start moving again. Muscles are not
used to such a rhythm and quickly get tired.
4. Many works most likely will confuse you: My little son would have done better. I can do it myself. Firstly, you cannot. Secondly, and this is the main thing, be ready to
perceive contemporary art, since you already taken the first step and being in the museum. Try to
understand what the author wanted to express by this work.
5. Buy a ticket with a tour or audio guide. In both cases there are advantages. Nothing will replace live
communication with the guide, sincerely grateful for your interest and questions. At the same time, the
audio guide will provide an opportunity to remain alone with the work and with your own feelings.
6. Take a break, have a snack, cup of coffee or a glass of sparkling wine in the museum cafe. Many cafes
and restaurants under the museums have their own history and charm. You will not just relax, but also be
permeated with the atmosphere of a place where artists often meet.
7. Be sure to visit the museum shop. You cannot resist the temptation to buy books, catalogs, postcards
and so on. Today, the choice of souvenirs in museums is quite sophisticated – from cups, T-shirts, caps
with a print of the artist’s work, whose exhibition you have visited, to jewelry, puzzles and interior items
in the museum collection.
Visiting the museum as a good meal will not only benefit, but will also bring real pleasure.