Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Size Doesn't Matter

In the last few years I've started avoiding those big museum or gallery exhibits, I mean the really big league ones. One of the last I attempted was a timed-ticket Van Gogh exhbit in Philadelphia. I just walked in, and walked through, dodging the deep crowds wandering zombie-like with their special exhibit headphones plugged in. The next day I was lucky enough to visit the Delaware Art Museum, not tiny, but not huge, but perfectly wonderful with its famous collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art. Why then would I now settle for anything less than this modestly sized perfection?

Well, curiosity made me attend the Chagall exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario recently. But again, I just whipped through it, unable to really take in the splendour of his art. I couldn't get close to anything. As tall as I am, there were too many heads in the way. All my energy was taken dodging others. The Waterhouse exhibit in Montreal was a medium-sized exhibition, appeal wise, and that is part of why I loved it. Damn, I still think about that show.

Why am I going on about this? To introduce my favourite sort of museum or gallery: the small boutique version, whose focus is never going to be King Tut or the French Impressionists, and so will never attract the gazillions that, bless their hearts, can say they've attended, but really... can these shows be enjoyed? Not by me.

The Gardiner Museum in Toronto focuses on ceramics and it does so beautifully. Its history is a short and interesting one, and you can read about it here. For a decade or so it was run by the large Royal Ontario Museum across the street (you remember, where I had Freddy the Fossil identified?). It's independent again, but I have a souvenir of its ROM time hanging framed in my kitchen. I LOVE this poster.


The Gardiner has wonderful pieces, ancient and modern. It's an intimate look at our civilization, and at times its completely gobsmacking. I love the little commedia dell'arte figurines, the snuff boxes, and - of course - the chocolate services from the 18th century. Such tiny cups! Well it's hardly surprising if you consider how costly the newly discovered intoxicant was. Those teeny portions are the complete antithesis of our super-big-gulp servings of soda pops and other drivel. On my last visit to the Gardiner over the Christmas break, I saw an exhibit, The Tsar's Cabinet: The Luxury and Romance of the Romanovs. Stunning, but no wonder there was a revolution. How many hundreds-of-settings services does anyone need? Splendid but slightly sickening. Anyway, to end my ramble, I just wanted to say, if you live here, or if you're visiting, please visit the Gardiner Museum. It's a little gem.


The Clever Pup said...

Timely. I'm studying for my Practice of Art History exam and one subject we have been talking about is "The Blockbuster" and the impersonal shows where everyone's detached and hooked onto their audioguides. I've learned there is such a thing as too much information.

Capt. Luke said...

Thank Goodness! Oh and hooray for Delaware!

G said...

Clever Pup: That is so interesting! And as for "too much information", it makes me ponder the question of Director's Notes in a theatre program. They can enlighten or raise questions or just flog the concept to death. Does Art need to be explained or is Art to be experienced by the individual purely through their own filter?

G said...

Capt. Luke: You should indeed be proud. :)