Each month, we will highlight something new for you to experience to show you “what’s up” at the BMA right now.
In a gallery that is home to 16th Century Italian works of art, our latest addition certainly stands out. In fact, if the other artists whose works are displayed in the gallery could travel through time to visit the Museum, they probably wouldn’t know what to make of it. Photography, after all, was invented only a little less than 200 years ago.
Taken in 1989 by German photographer Thomas Struth who is best known for his museum photographs, the photo is of a gallery in the Louvre museum in Paris. In the photo, paintings by Venetian artists Veronese and Tintoretto, among others from the late 1500s, are on display. The gallery in which the photograph now hangs at the BMA shows works from the same period. You can see a painting by Tintoretto hanging immediately to the right.
Why did Curator of European Art Robert Schindler choose to place this contemporary piece in the gallery? The photograph prompts us to think about how we interact with museum collections. In the photo, a group of school children huddle on the floor with large paintings towering above them. They turn their attention to a teacher, who explains what they see. One young boy looks toward us, as if asking: How do you look at art? How do we find meaning in the works in this room? Through direct observation, through reading the label next to the work, or through a docent tour like the group in the photo? In the end, the photograph suggests that looking at art and finding meaning is an active process by which we become part of its history, as well.