Museum Culture

The Morgan, the Moon, and the Eucharist

I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements. —Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, describing the 1969 moon landing in Guidepost Magazine (October 1970)
Master of the Rio Frio. Altarpiece of St. Martin (Spanish; c. 1500). Musée de Cluny, Paris. Continue Reading
Olympia's Heirs

IF WE CONFUSE CULTURE WITH THE CULT OF THE ARTS, then, yes, Manet, together with all his art historical brethren, is of primary importance. But if we take culture to mean the entire web of aspirations, goals, achievements, and values of a people—their conscience; their taste in ethics—penicillin counts for more than any artist. I was reminded of this by Tracy Quan’s recent article in The Daily. Ms. Quan, author of Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl [“available on your Kindle in under a minute”] is the doyenne of the half-hooker economy. Continue Reading
Three Faiths, One Hymnal

THREE FAITHS: JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM is two things at once. To the eye, it is a stunning exhibition of historic manuscripts, incunabula and printed texts of great rarity and beauty. On that level, it is nothing short of breathtaking. This is an uncommon opportunity to greet antiquities of incomparable scholarly and aesthetic value. Unhappily, the rarities on show, all from the New York Public Library’s permanent collection, are not displayed for their own sakes. Nor are they here to instruct us in the necessity for civilizational stewardship, the true purpose of a magnificent library. Continue Reading
Dodging the Sacred

MODERNITY OFFERS SECULARISTS TWO SEDUCTIVE HEDGES: aestheticism and Buddhism. New York’s Rubin Museum yokes them together in a pictorial fantasia on the New Age-y theme of universal spirituality. No divisive truth claims mar the view from the $100 million monument to Multi-Plan founder Donald Rubin’s own purchasing power and those acquisitive cravings that Buddhist doctrine decries. All contradictions and irreconcilable differences disperse in the solvent of art appreciation, that distinctly Western ideology at the heart of museum culture. Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism is a visually splendid, conceptually shallow, exhibition. Continue Reading
Every Town, Its Arts Center

IT USED TO BE “A CHICKEN IN EVERY POT.” Today, the rallying cry is more like “Every town, its own art center.” How else can we grow into informed, sensitive, environmentally caring and gender-free citizens without art? Without the ministrations and musings of Those Who Know? Without the comfort of art to compensate for our unemployment? Ask Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A prosperous metropolis at the turn of the 20th century, it was a naitonal center for the manufacture of woolens. It had thriving mills that produced grist, lumber, paper and textiles. Continue Reading