(Picture courtesy of Dougtone’s photostream at flickr.com.)
As many of you have noticed, the past several posts about art have been written about sculptures that are found on the mall in Washington, D.C., strolling in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. It’s one of the pleasures of any visit to our capitol to be able to take at least part of one day, taking in the works that are there to experience.
The collectors who’ve given the public a chance to visit great works really leave me a bit in awe. There aren’t many more graceful ways to pass on their appreciation of qualities we benefit from in art works than to make it available to us all. Of course, we can’t all have the ability to collect things that stir us, and without this open sharing we’d all be less fortunate.
The nation’s capitol has a long history of monuments both loved and severely critiqued.
The Hirshhorn was fought against as being almost grandiose because it took the name of a collector who shared his own possessions, while wanting his own name to appear along with the works he was sharing. That it went ahead and benefits us all is another of the mixed messages we encounter when we take advantage of this, and many other, museums we encounter. Begun in 1969;
A controversy soon develops over naming a building on the historic National Mall after a living person, as well as the new federal museum’s modern look and intrusively expansive sculptural grounds……The new design reinforces the identity of the garden as a welcoming urban park…. [This] park for art…serves the sculpture. The divisions of the space prove essential accents; artworks pop in and out of view as the spectator moves about the space….” Benjamin Forgey, The Washington Post, September 12, 1981.
The collections of art we all know about and love were brought about by various means, and I have to remind myself that one of the greatest, Paris’ Louvre, grew into the incredible collrection it is, because of Napoleon’s need to create a monument to himself. In his conquests of the rest of the world, the little emperor made works that belonged in other places into the booty that he displayed in his homeland. We can appreciate that opportunity without missing that it resulted not so much because of a love of beauty, but more because of a need to show his own greatness that Napoleon possessed.
Great works can be part of a variable human scene, full of many admirable qualities without being tainted by mixed motives. I find that just as true of the art itself. Reminders that we’re capable of real virtue without being free of less admirable qualities we need to rise above isn’t the least of the benefits of visiting any work of art.
(Picture courtesy of Fabrice Terrasson at flickr.com.)