Loving Art in a Pandemic
We asked the Art Historian Wouter Maas to reflect on how his art interactions have changed during the ongoing Pandemic. Wouter Maas started describing the art at the Gallery Sorelle Sciarone in March 2020.
While working together with us at the gallery, Wouter was attracted to Marko Klomp's paintings and curated an exhibition around Marko's extensive landscape paintings. The Exhibition: Left Behind - a monography of Landscapes by the painter and poet Marko Klomp is currently on show at Gallery Sorelle Sciarone.
Due to the many restrictions this last year, Wouter has not had the chance to see any of the paintings at the gallery in person, which everyone is looking at art in museums and clients buying art online. Being trained as an Art Historian, Wouter and Tascha have all been harped about the importance of seeing art and architecture in real life. Wouter reflects on the changes in the museum art world during the quarantine. A picture does not do justice to art at all. Yet our world is mostly digital. Wouter reflects on art during quarantine in a digital world.
Art, corona and quarantine in a digital world
I sit at home and flip through books on art. Today, the quality of these photos is high, and there are many details to be seen. It kind off eases the pain of not being able to see the artwork in real life. Nowadays we can also see a lot through the internet that requires a visit to a museum or gallery. Yet it is time to reflect on these kinds of institutions, because what can we do with them now that they are closed in the corona crisis? This crisis, therefore, offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on this.
A few years ago, I was on vacation in the South of France. On one of the last days there, we decided to do a "small" excursion to Spain's north. After a few hours of driving, we arrived in a small town, where we had to drive through a tunnel. After the tunnel, a bend emerged and one of the most famous buildings in modern art history loomed: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. As an art history student, I knew what this post-modern architecture icon would look like, I had seen enough images. However, these reproductions had not prepared me for the effect that this building would have on me; Being face to face with this museum made me forget the world for a moment. There was nothing else.
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
Seeing art in person
Art history teachers usually insist that art cannot be learned from a book alone. Hence the sheer number of visits to galleries, museums, city walks, parks, and trips abroad. We travel easier than art. Then travelled. And in addition to the fact that travel is no longer possible, the coronavirus has an enormous impact on cultural life, the closing of the museums is one of them. We encounter a problem here: from what does art that cannot be seen derive its right to exist?
Technology and accessibility
Now we live in a time when technology has made it possible to share images at lightning speed and make them globally available, through websites of museums and galleries, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. For those who wish, the contents of countless museums can be reviewed in a few hours. Also, because physical access to a lot of art is impossible, this lack is solved by social media. I follow many institutions on Instagram that post art or about art. My feed has exploded in art since the corona crisis. The lovely snaps taken by friends in the pub or on the beach have been mainly replaced by drawings, paintings, statues, installations, architecture. This leads me to cautiously conclude that art is a necessity of life. For many people anyway.
Online Art Inniatives
Between Art & Quarantine Johannes Vermeer's Melkmeisje and reproducing it home.
The closure of museums and the stop on travelling also leads to inspiring, moving, and sometimes just very funny initiatives. One of the best I think is the Instagram account "Between Art & Quarantine" (Original Dutch: Tussen Kunst en Quarentain). The creator calls on people to choose a well-known work of art, play it with a maximum of three objects in the house, and then share the photo. This has resulted in an enormous number of entries that show creativity, inventiveness, and humour. In no time, this account had a huge following, which is yet another indication of how many people worldwide have the need to get involved with art.
The National Portrait Gallery in London has started the Hold Still initiative.
Of course, art, social media and digitization can also be taken more seriously. The National Portrait Gallery in London has started the Hold Still initiative. It is a community-based project to use photography to capture the "mind, mood, hopes, fears, and feelings" during the corona crisis. This not only creates a testament to an era but Hold Still also encourages the creativity of an entire community.
Traditional roles of a museum
Traditionally, museums are institutions that conserve artworks, conduct research on them, and present these results to visitors. The Internet and social media have ensured that showing art and providing information about this art can continue as usual. This is a logical consequence of an ongoing digitization process and the online availability of images and information. This "opening up of the collection" could possibly be accelerated by the current crisis. In the short term, the coronavirus means that art is less readily available to everyone. Institutions will have to consider digital possibilities to reach the broadest possible audience.
The rules surrounding the government's coronavirus will affect museum visits, just like other facets of life. I hope that anyone who wants to visit a museum will be able to do this. However, through this crisis, we have discovered that digital platforms for art meet a need for many people. Consideration will have to be given to how these digital possibilities can enrich the experience of skill in the future. I am a big supporter of supplementing - but not replacing - the museum and gallery visit.
Wouter - The Art Historian
Wouter Maas Art Historian in between classical Doric Pillars
Wouter Maas is a specialist in Early Modern and Midevil Art. He is a Freelance Art Historian at Gallery Sorelle Sciarone, describing, appraising and curating artwork. And even though this reflection was written before the lift of the first lockdown, it had held true over the pandemic last year. Since then he has also become an editor at Kunstmeisjes, an exhibition review platform and book by Art Historians. He was going to exhibitions when restrictions allow. With pandemic fatigue setting in this reflection retains an optimistic hope. He is touching on the acceleration of accessibility of art institutions to al wider audience. And the playfullness that was still inherent during the first period of COVID restrictions.
You can read more of Wouter's thoughts on art and exhibitions at Kunstmeisjes in Dutch.
Wouter wrote this in his native Dutch, and it has been translated to English by Tascha Sciarone. The original Dutch version was sent to our colleagues at kunstgalerie-info to be published on their site.