Confessions Of A Gallery Hater

0art1I’m convinced  that there is something wrong with today’s art exhibitions: They always leave me feeling dissatisfied, as though even the effort of traveling to the gallery is never compensated by the joyful experience of seeing the images. I’m also aware of a certain discrepancy between art itself and the whole idea of a photographic exhibition: I think this happens because the environment and the atmosphere surrounding the artwork tend to dull its significance and deplete its power. It is possible that I have become jaded over the years, but I do not consider this true: I can still be emotionally and intellectually moved by images in almost any other context than hanging in pristine splendour in a spartan gallery setting. I do not find the usual gallery ambiance very conducive to a personal relationship with a photograph. One reason for this state of affairs is that, in most modern shows, pictures are displayed just to sell… Personally, I have nothing against this idea per se and it would be foolishly naive not to recognize the business of art. However, I must admit that I feel (or encouraged to feel) slightly guilty about the fact that I am there to (merely) enjoy the works and not buy any of them. Inevitably my appreciation of the images suffers unfairly because I am constantly reminded by the environment that these are commercial objects and that, although browsing is tolerated, it is not wholly welcome. I confess, also, to a feeling of intimidation in the average gallery. I am well aware of the efforts on the part of caring directors to obviate this anxiety in the viewers, but I still associate galleries with a small and favoured class of society, one in which I suspect I do not belong. Therefore, I tiptoe around the hushed space, staring with isolated reverence at perhaps one lone print, surrounded by acres of whitewash or fancy wall covering, as if in the presence of some sacred icon of art. Anything the work itself might be saying to me is drowned out by the fear and guilt of being in the place at all. I bet it was a lot more fun to visit exhibitions just a few years ago, when pictures were simply framed and butted together from floor to ceiling: What a mess! But also what an excitement to find the images we loved! Perhaps this example is exaggerating towards the absurd, but the assumption that the best art display should consist only of a small number of pieces isolated in a rarefied refinement is equally absurd. It seems to me as art proclaiming itself like a prostitute in a hotel lobby. I like better those exhibitions that tend to mimic a common and domestic environment, where each work is displayed naturally and inevitably as a part of a home, because art belongs there, and so does the visitor. It’s only in these circumstances that the whole exhibit becomes an enjoyable, invigorating experience. And that, for me, is an event worth celebrating.

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About Mauro Metallo

A Writer and Photographer equally at home in Italy and in Canada.

One response to “Confessions Of A Gallery Hater”

  1. davecandoit says :

    Interesting take on it, Mauro. I tend to think that the minimalist gallery setting is the best way to gauge the impact of an art piece. By stripping away all the ambiance and warmth often found surrounding artwork in a well-kept and warmly decorated living area, one is forced to judge a piece on its own, without any frame of reference or external influence. For instance, take any 5 x 7 piece of crap photo, enlarge it to 5 feet by 7 feet (with no frame or glass, like a canvas), hang it on a brick wall in a loft-style condo with 14-ft ceilings and a polished concrete floor, throw an off-white, low-backed contemporary sofa in front of it, and suddenly a photo one might dismiss out of hand becomes “art!” Mind you, I’ve never seen this done, but it would make for an interesting experiment. I suspect that the artistic value of a piece can be improved not only by setting, but also by size. If someone’s gone to the trouble of blowing a photo up to epic proportions, it MUST have artistic value, no? 🙂 I even suspect that word of mouth can influence one’s perception of a piece of art. If everyone’s raving about a painting or photo at a gallery, when one goes to view it, one might subconsciously be more open to accepting it as art. On the other hand, an over-hyped piece of art might be scrutinized more, since expectations have been raised.

    As for galleries and those opening night parties, I’m just not cut from that cloth at all. Totally beyond my comfort zone.

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