Our gallery mainly takes Dutch Artist to China and Singapore. But we also aim to take African artist to the UK and The Netherlands. Our artist work is seen and hung in another country and continues to live their lives abroad, disconnected from the root of its creation. Our gallery is based on moving artists from one region to other regions of the world.
I have not given much thought as to what this means for the art in the years to come. I have only concerned myself with the quality of the art and the relationship of the artist, art work, gallery and new owner all have with each other. The end goal being, finding a home for art work. However recently I was confronted with 400 year old paintings from Dutch painters that primarily sold their works to foreign courts and nobility. I did not know any of these artist and neither did most of the other twenty two Dutch art historians I was with. One lady, in our group, could tell us more about two artists, as her current work project entails tracing 17th Century Dutch-, and Flemish Artist through the world’s museum collection (Gerson Digital). This project is a fairly new, and exciting, project, but in the here and now of my visit, we knew very little of these artists.
This confrontation took place in my recent trip to Lithuania, I had the chance to visit the Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery. Žilinskas (1904-1992) was a Lithuanian business man that collected art for over 40 years, before building this museum to house it all in. He is the most notable 20th century art collector in Lithuania and the collection is an impressive encyclopedic collection of objects from the entirety of the western art canon. He had several rooms for Flemish and Dutch artists, as well as Spanish, Italian and French painters. There is a Egyptian and Roman room, where I saw my first unwrapped mummy, something I have only read of as a museum practice in the 19th century. There are temporary exhibitions solo and thematic. There is a blind museum on the first floor. It is in theory a very dynamic museum addressing social, cultural and historical themes in the way it exhibits and what it exhibits. Yet, we all left a bit unimpressed and I, theoretically mortified, but privately elated, by seeing an ethical museum issue of the mummy in real life.
Mummy in the Egyptian and Roman in Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery.
Not sure of the ethical implication of posting this, but I obviously need to process this.
Aside from my personal enjoyment of experiencing an real life ethical museum issue (which I have only read about in ethic class). Why were we all so unimpressed by this museum? We could all admire the technical quality and technical mastery of the Dutch artists’ works. They painters painted themes and issues of their times in creative and masterful ways. All the works and artist in had enjoyed notable prominence during their lifetime. Yet, we were unimpressed. If me and my companions were pressed, they might have another reason why we did not experience the museum as particularly noteworthy things like; the dingy carpets, strange lighting, the random plants on the giant marble staircase, the permeating heat from outside and finally the art collection itself, would all be mentioned.
Plants on the stairwell of Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery.
I like plants everywhere, but it is pretty unconventional in a museum.
But I think the only thing about the collection, was that it was new to us and did not meet any expectation on Western canon art as we are used to on a subconscious level. The collection for a museum technically sub par to the collections held in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Italy, the U.K. aka Western Europe. Here is where we find Ruben, Rembrandt, Caravaggio et al. Artist who have been canonized in the Western European Art World. Canonized artist are part of the historical myth of these countries national artistic culture. These artist in Žilinskas Gallery is a private collection of notable artists of their time. The Art Gallery has a wide range of centuries and regions, but focusing on the Dutch artist in the collection, they have become niche artist, as they have strayed too far from the geographic region where the art canon as we know it was formed. The traveling artist work and import has been all but forgotten by his country men. Is this a geographic disconnect?
In the last decade we have been trying to widen the disconnect of the Western Art Canon. Universities, some museums, and influential book editions, like Gardner are including the excluded art, art by females, by people of colour and people of outside the Western Art Canon region. My private and academic education is mainly centered around one time zone, albeit in different parts of the equator. Thus, maybe due to my education and language constraint, these artist, at Žilinskas Gallery, enjoy more recognition in Lithuania, than The Netherlands. I do not know the answer to this. However, visiting this museum did prompt me to think about the lives the art work might lead after they have found a home in a completely different region of the world. Which as you can remember from my opening paragraph is exactly what we do here at Gallery Sorelle Sciarone. What do these art work contribute over the years to the artist who made them and the collectors who hold them? Will these artist become forgotten in their home nation, as these Dutch artist where in Žilinskas Gallery?
What role does the art play in the years hereafter. Does one need to think about it and plot a course? In a panel discussion in 2014, over the photography exhibition ‘Apartheid and After’, in Amsterdam, one member noted that the images created by Africans about Africans in Africa are only viewed by rich white Europeans in a gallery. The impact of representation and for whom these images ultimately are for. This is another issue that needs to be addressed, and that I have been thinking of, the better part of five years. An answer I am no closer to, except that I beleive artist should be paid for their work. Will these art works, be another example of globalization and cross cultural interchange and nothing more about the art itself? What agency does art have in a private home? Does an artist need to reach global fame for their work to be remembered or at least fame also in their own region as well?
I love all the work we curate at the gallery, from this encounter, I am more energized to nurture each individual art work. If you have any feelings towards any art work, send me your thoughts and feelings and we will write them up and nurture Dutch artists creation.