Thursday, June 06, 2024

A letter to the managements of Musée d'Orsay and Fondation Louis Vuitton: to photograph or to see IV

From: Lindsey Tramuta's article on Lonely Planet, 26 Nov 2022.

To the managements of
Musée d'Orsay
Fondation Louis Vuitton

Dear Madam, dear Sir,

I thank you for the fabulous exhibitions I saw during my three-month visit to Paris this spring: " Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise : Les derniers mois ", " Mark Rothko ", and " Paris 1874 : Inventer l'impressionnisme ".

I am an enthusiastic visitor to art exhibitions since the 1960s, and these three belong to the most unforgettable I have ever seen.

I am a man of the cinema. In our commercial and artistic world we find it self-evident that concentration on the visual presentation is sacred.

The opening announcements of the UGC cinema network nail it perfectly:
- Respecter sa place
- Respecter ses voisins
- Respecter l'œuvre
- Respecter l'environment

Which means for instance: mobile devices must be turned off during the entire presentation. The illumination on the screen is fragile, and the impact is disturbed if there is a bright LED screen in the field of vision.

Nothing can make me happier than to observe your beautiful museums filled with huge crowds, local and international. This is the golden age of art museums.

I admire your subtle lighting (extra tender for pastels), the invisible non-reflective glass protection and the art of hanging.

Ten years ago, you lifted the photo ban. Could you please consider instead making reproductions of the whole exhibition available at websites? Obviously there is a tremendous need for people to have digital copies of artworks.

Paradoxically, the focus of the exhibition has by now shifted so much that the main activity is photographing.

More than that. The brightest element at your museums are now the LCD / LED / OLED screens of mobile devices. It is not rare to detect twelve such screens dominating the space before a painting. That bright, quickly moving spectacle prevents concentration on the art on display. Thinking back on those exhibitions I saw this spring: I visited them and was impressed - but did not really see them. I saw a social media spectacle.

As we know, one of the great turns in the breakthrough of impressionism 150 years ago was a new way of appreciating a painting. Viewing an impressionistic painting requires finding the proper distance and being able to concentrate and meditate, to let the full impact sink in. Not long ago, it was not rare to contemplate a single painting for hours.

Shouldn't we give today's art lovers the opportunity to the same full experience - in conditions that are respected even in cinemas ? Films are artworks of mechanical reproduction. Your treasures are unique - shouldn't  they be treated with even greater respect ?

Yours with best regards - with love, respect and gratitude for your wonderful work - live long and prosper !

Antti Alanen
Film historian

My previous blog comments in this series:
Musée d'Orsay: to photograph or to see II (5 March 2023).
Manet/Degas: to photograph or to see III (13 April 2023)

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