Sunday, February 5, 2012

I can't do it all

Sound familiar?  There is just too much going on in our lives to get it all done and when you’re in the art world your holidays often are art related as well.

Even in Santa Fe I can be overwhelmed by all I would like to do and see and hear but when I come back to New York it can become totally overwhelming.  Especially during Old Master Drawings and Paintings week in New York there was no way of seeing all the shows of colleagues and the exhibitions.  For instance, a fair I wrote about last year and really planned to go to, “The Outsider Art Fair”, I did not make.

Just going to the Metropolitan Museum one weekend I had a list of 8 exhibitions and renovated galleries I wanted to see, not including what I saw last time I was in New York.  Admittedly they were not all large shows but still…

One lady at the Met literally ran into me on a staircase.  She came reeling out of the American Galleries saying, “There is just too much to see” and that is what made me think I should say out loud what I said sotto voce to her.  You need to take it in chunks.  Decide what it is you want to see on one day and come back another. Yes, I am saying that to myself as well.

My father had a system when he went into a museum that was new to him.  He walked through all the galleries once and then he walked through again to see more thoroughly what he had seen the first time.   One can extend that to an exhibition and come back a second or third time if you find it worthwhile.

The Italian Renaissance Portrait exhibition at the Met, which I plan to write about next week, is a case in point.  It is quite large and Penelope and I walked through, not quickly, but not lingering too long in front of any one work of art.  We bought the catalogue and Penelope plans to go back to take the audio guide.  I too hope to have the chance to return to the show in the next week.  On each viewing more will reveal itself.

When I discussed this idea with my son, the question came up, but what if you can’t go back as could happen with an exhibition that is on only for a brief period of time.

If you travel in order to see a particular museum or exhibition you can easily be disappointed.  On my first trip to Milan 40 years ago, I stayed for 4 days and, as is not too unusual in Italy, there was a strike.  All museums were closed until the afternoon that I was leaving.  I must admit that I ran through a couple of museums so that I would have time to see Leonardo’s “Last Supper”.  Thank goodness I made that decision because by the time I returned to Milan the process of viewing The Last Supper had become a codified, ticketed, limited-time visit, and the work was glazed, which as with the Mona Lisa, separates you from the immediate experience of it.

As I try to cover as many of New York’s current Old Master shows as possible, I know that I can’t do it all. As my father used to say “you cannot dance at two weddings at the same time.”

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