Comment

Dear Museum Director,

I like air conditioning, and I like looking at art, so visiting your gallery for the recent summer blockbuster exhibition seemed like a good idea. I had become aware of the exhibition through a variety of media that included advertisements in all the art magazines and a news story on television, and there may have even been an ad in a newspaper – I can’t quite recall, but I was mainly aware of it from the many coloured flags that festooned the streets of the city which included images of works that I believed would be included in the exhibition.

I remarked to my wife that I would like to see the show because, short of actually travelling overseas to visit the galleries from where all the art had been selected, I probably would never have another chance to see it all in one place in my hometown.

We went at 10.30am to see the exhibition and it was already very crowded so I had to wait in line to buy a ticket. Why didn’t I think ahead and purchase one in advance online? I don’t know, and although it was already very hot outside, the gallery itself was very pleasant and cool and standing in line was all part of the experience so I was more than happy to watch advance ticket sales people sail though the turnstiles.  Once I had the tickets we also decided we’d purchase the audio tour option. This proved to be both entertaining and informative. A well-known Australian actor who I’m sure I’ve seen in movies – and who I’m sure has also done voice-over work on ads – narrated the stories behind the paintings. It was fascinating and added a lot of information. I’m not a big reader and I would have had to read it all in books or in the exhibition catalogue and frankly, who has that sort of time?

My wife and I felt that the chronological ordering of the works in the show was a very logical way to handle things. You could see how one thing caused another thing to happen through a range of influences and world historical events, and as the dulcet tones of the audio tour fellow pointed out, it was all very moving and emotional. Not that I personally felt those things as I was looking over the heads of all the other gallery goers at the art, but at least you could appreciate what you were supposed to feel, which is important to know.

My wife felt that the middle part of the exhibition was quite confronting as the art became more modern and hard to understand, but as I like to rise to a challenge, I thought it all quite interesting if aesthetically weird, like Swedish jazz or modern dance. I for one like colour – that is, insofar as one encounters colour on an every day basis, it was baffling (for my wife) but charming. I can’t imagine an artist spending all those years ‘investigating’ something without coming up with an answer, but I’m not an artist so who knows? But you have to give the artist credit – who would ever have thought of putting burnt orange and brown together? Certainly not me, and not at that kind of scale! My wife objects when I mismatch my shirts and pants let alone go all avant-garde with the colours. I guess I’m more modern than contemporary.

My wife objects when I mismatch my shirts and pants let alone go all avant-garde with the colours.

Speaking of contemporary, we agreed that the last section of the show was rubbish.  I don’t know how anyone can justify putting any old thing in a gallery and calling it art, it at least has to have some kind of skill, let alone relevance to the overall ‘theme’ of the show. The audio voice-over guy had nothing much to add but some vague generalities (again about what I was supposed to ‘feel’) before drifting off into silence – either he’d fallen asleep or nipped out for a smoke.

The end of the show was a highlight –that being the exhibition gift shop – which had many books, calendars, and postcards for purchase. My wife took the opportunity to stock up on potential Christmas stocking fillers and second-tier birthday gifts, purchasing scented candles, silk scarves, fridge magnets and a t-shirt.

At the end of the day we agreed that we had a lovely time at your museum and wanted to thank you for the summer blockbuster. Our only complaints were that the coffee was expensive and the sign for the toilets could have been larger, but other than that it was a delightful day out.

 

Andrew Frost