Saturday, October 15, 2011


At the Saint Louis Art Museum’s exhibit of Monet’s Agapanthus triptych, in a little room where some silent footage of the painter ran in a loop, accompanied by a recording of Debussy’s “Claire de lune,” a grandmother spoke loudly to her granddaughters, who might have been three and five:

“Smoking cigarettes is very bad for you. If he hadn’t smoked cigarettes, he would have lived a lot longer. You don’t want to smoke cigarettes.”
The footage was of Monet at work, a long-ashed cigarette hanging from his lips. He died of lung cancer at the age of eighty-six.

The Agapanthus triptych was a disappointment, though Elaine and I were happy that we shared in the disappointment. (“I’m so glad we have the same taste in art,” said she.) We saw so many far more vibrant and engaging paintings yesterday — by Kline, Motherwell, Pissarro, van Gogh, and Monet himself, among others. The triptych felt more like painting-by-the-yard, or background music. The dark-grey walls and dim lighting didn’t help matters. Nor did the array of merch that waited just beyond the triptych, everything from CDs of French pop music to Monet refrigerator magnets.

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (via Pinboard)

comments: 2

Elaine said...

Even the Smithsonian and the National Gallery are heavily into merchandizing. I have a huge collection of art-repro postcards (gathered at multiple museums all over N. Europe)--affordable, portable, lovely.) Now you can't get them at our big museums; they hope you'll spring for the $50+ books--unwieldy and expensive. Sigh. Saw a terrific quilt show at the Renwick, and was truly disheartened by this policy.

Michael Leddy said...

I’ve seen postcards recently in a number of museums, but they’re not nearly as plentiful as they once were (postcards, that is, not museums). I wonder if the decline of snail-mail has something to do with it. I remember when museum postcards were a medium for ordinary correspondence.