Behind the Scenes

So often I come across thoughts about art that do not conform to the structure of the  Do This! newsletter for artists. A recent trip to New York confirmed my desire to find a place to post these thoughts and this blog was born.

As a former museum professional, I have seen many, many museums. And I have been behind the scenes in most of them. But I have never seen anything like this. A friend, artist, and former colleague (who is now an employee at a major New York museum) took me on a "tour" of their storage facility. Located far from the actual museum building, this facility houses the art that is not on view or on loan. I don’t know what their percentage is, but when I was a curator we had space to exhibit between three and five percent of our collection. That means 95-97% was in storage! That’s a lot of art that doesn’t see the light of day very often.

Anyhow . . . we walked by the mass of crates, which protect the sculptures they were specifically built for. The areas had been numbered so that works were fairly easy to locate (it was far too packed to create rows for the crates). My friend said that if they had a request for one of the sculptures in the back of the room, it might take them two or three days to "dig" it out because of all the heavy lifting required.

Then we looked through the screens of paintings. (If you don’t know how paintings are stored in a museum, the proper way is on metal screens that allow air to circulate among them.) They pulled out their favorites, along with those they love to laugh at and joke about. I saw at least three paintings that I knew were valued at around $40 million each. And this warehouse was PACKED!

There is a lot of art in this world. A lot of really wonderful art. Some will be lucky enough to make it into museum collections, but is that really a good thing? Is it art if no one ever sees it?

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4 comments to Behind the Scenes

  • You are the first person I have heard ask that question, “Is it art if no one ever sees it?” I believe that my work is complete because I have made it, and I also believe it is amplified when someone sees it, because the viewer is a co-creator. Each piece becomes a new piece with each viewer. I have had the experience of standing before a famous painting in a museum and feeling that I was seeing something that only I could see. Have not considered from the perspective of art that is never seen. Energy is a powerful thing.

  • Oh I love that you are expanding into blog world, this allows more people to share in all your wealth of information!! Congrads on the Blog and keep up the great work!! Tonia

  • Hank Black

    Is it a good thing to hide great artwork in warehouses? It is a good way to inflate and control market prices and deprive young people of potential sources of inspiration.

  • (Alyson, I’m so glad you did the blog). You know, when I lived in Japan (’70’s) at a museum campus, this story from the ’50’s emerged: the curator had placed long cloths over the cases in which one of the first sets of the 36 views of Mount Fuji Ukiyo-e were displayed. This was to protect them from the light and she intended to remove the cloths when visitors to the museum came. The museum founder came in and had them removed; he said,’…we can get more of the prints if they should ever be damaged, but the life force of the art is best served when the art is available for view…” wow. I never forgot that. I, too, believe that art only just gets started after its creation, and the art’s true energy and spirit continues to be created and expand with the viewers imaginations impressing on the work. It is an expansive view of art, and I get a big bang! out of such a creative idea… -Janet