Thursday, December 27, 2007

Art Trivia

As we went through the Turner exhibit at the National Gallery recently, my friend commented that she was most interested in the color of the walls. Since most of his paintings were landscapes, I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about until she explained.

Apparently before the installation of a major exhibit, all the gallery walls are painted in a color family that supports the colors in the art without overpowering them. The actual color varies from room to room, even from wall to wall withing a room. This had simply never occurred to me. But as I looked closer, I could see that she was quite correct.

Then I started to wonder just how many layers of paint were on those walls! Could they possibly remove the paint each time before repainting?

One of the guests at Deborah’s Christmas dinner happened to be an art historian who had done a stint at the National Gallery and who is currently at the Corcoran. She confirmed this wall painting concept and went further to explain what goes on behind the scenes.

She said there is often controversy between the person who designs the exhibit, the curator, and the installers. In the case of the Turner exhibit, apparently in the name of balance the installers chose to separate two large paintings that are on either side of the entrance into the first room of the exhibit. The curator would have wanted the paintings to be hung right next to each other because they belong together.

I guess, as with anything, the art world is not as straightforward as we might think as we saunter through an exhibit. I may never recognize the separation of paintings, but from here on out I will pay attention to the wall color.

8 Comments:

Blogger Kristin said...

Who knew? I'll definitely pay more attention from now on.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- I'm sure the process of how the various paintings are selected/acquired/borrowed would be quite interesting as well. These are the things that are never apparent to the casual museum-goer!

9:57 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I was pretty sure there was a lot of discussion over how paintings are to be arranged and hung.

I am just glad I am not part of it. PErsonally, I would go for fairly neatral wall colours and arrange paintings by grouping (size or theme or style or chronologically or whatever). Balancing them estetically would not have been an issue with me.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- There is actually a reason for the color to give each room/wall the maximum chance to convey what the artist intended. A neutral color throughout would make it boring.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

This is an interesting train of thought. I had the opportunity to see the same paintings displayed in very different ways and measure the effect on me. While traveling through Houston, I went to the Houston Museum of Art and walked through their presentation of the Kress Collections. They were hung on what could be described white partitions which didn't reach to the top of the ceiling. It was like a souped up version of an elementary school exhibit. Just coming from Italy and having spent a month exploring various Italian art sites, I was just plain insufferable (just ask my traveling companion, Claudia). I wasn't impressed by the art. I believe I made some insufferable comment about this being the art that the Italians sold to rich Americans.

Roughly a year late, the Kress collection showed up at the DeYoung Museum and I went to see it. The collection was placed on dove grey to dark grey walls in a portion of the museum that had muted, emotional lighting. I came away with a much better appreciation for the paintings. Whether it was time or their better treatment, I had a much more positive emotional response to them.

just my two cents,
Kelly

8:08 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kelly -- I'm now convinced things like the color of the walls and the lighting make a huge difference. When we were in Florence a couple of years ago, I remember being disappointed at the Uffizi Gallery, mainly because of how difficult it was to navigate and understand. I seriously doubt the walls had been painted in the last decade, but maybe I am wrong...

8:50 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Boring" is a word that has been used to describe me.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

Richard,
I think that "insufferable" was just Claudia's code word for "boring with attitude" :::laugh:::

Trying to be less insufferable,

Kellyann

11:35 PM  

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