On Museum Hours

An art student worked here for a while. I liked him, he was a punk kid, just as I’d been once. He thought the museum was a bit ridiculous. He said when he looked at the paintings, he mostly just saw money, or more accurately, things standing in for money. I guess this is what he’d learned at university. He said this was clearest in Dutch still lifes which were essentially just piled-up possessions of the newly rich of that time. He said these were no different than if someone today were to paint a pile of Rolex watches, champagne bottles, and flat-screen TVs. That they were the rap-star videos of their day. And he said they were only less subtle versions of all the other commodities the museum was hoarding, and this was just part of the way things were disguised in the time of Late Capitalism. He didn’t hold it against the museum personally, but he went on like that. I asked him why he always used the term ‘Late Capitalism,’ and how people knew it was so late, and if it wasn’t more troublesome if what existed now was early. He knew a lot more than me but he didn’t seem to have an answer for that. He was also unhappy about the cost of museum admission. I agreed it would be nicer if it was free, but he was a big fan of the movies and I had to remind him they cost as much and he never complained about that. ‘Yeah, you can’t win,’ he said, ‘but maybe someday everyone will lose less and museums and movies could both be free.’
 Children's Games, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Oil on Panel, 1560

Children's Games, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Oil on Panel, 1560

Johann [Bobby Sommer],  Museum Hours - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2268732/. This is a quote from a slow and rather moving film. It shows wondering, wandering people flowing through lives that at any moment can become curated artworks. It seems to ask the viewer to take the time to cultivate the eyes to see. Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum is as important a character as the actors. The film features a number of captivating renaissance Bruegel the Elder paintings from the museum's exhibitions. A chronological list of his paintings can be found here and the Kunsthistorisches Museum can be virtually explored here. Breugel's paintings of sixteenth century Dutch crowds are, for me, a precursory to Manchester's twentieth century urban artist, L.S. Lowry. IMDB summarizes the film this way: "When a Vienna museum guard befriends an enigmatic visitor, the grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum becomes a mysterious crossroads that sparks explorations of their lives, the city, and the ways in which works of art reflect and shape the world."

timothywstanley@me.com