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Paris, Day 2: The Louvre – Cameras Allowed

As I walked through gallery after gallery in The Louvre in search of the European and African art collections, I couldn’t help notice that many of people ahead of me were taking photos of the artwork. Most didn’t even look at a painting long enough. They just got within camera range, snapped and moved on to the next one.

Granted, with the size of The Louvre — I’m sure I could visit every day for a month and not see the same collections twice — the objective for many visitors is to capture as much as possible in the time that they have. But, to me, it just waters down the experience.

Sculpture from the African Art collection at The Louvre - Maynefoto

I couldn’t help thinking about it for several hours after — and it comes back to mind each time since that I’ve been to an art gallery or a museum.

In this time when cell phones and digital cameras are so ubiquitous, it shouldn’t have been surprising but it was.

In thinking about what I’d write in this post, I thought about a comment Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, made recently at a talk at the New York Public Library. To paraphrase, he said CDs and computers make a large collection of music more easily accessible but flattens the sound.

The same could probably be said about taking photos of works of art. By relying on a camera instead of the eye to interpret and record the image, we reduce it to one dimension. Sure, it’s accessible — we can load it on to our computers, print a copy, share it with our friends, etc., but no camera I know of can capture the subtle qualities, like the light or tiny brush strokes that the eye can pick up, or the feeling that some works of art can evoke in a viewer.

Seeing this “drive-by viewing” had me thinking about how we engage the things around us and how technology is allowing us to breeze through our lives without slowing down or stopping to notice, to take stock.

Having worked with creative people in different fields, I’m acutely aware of the right of ownership whether of a manuscript, photograph, song or painting and how easy it is for us to ‘own’ a knock-off or a copy of the original. I’m also well aware that some museums, like The Louvre, allow visitors to take photos (sans flash).

Maybe it’s not such a big deal to allow cameras in museums since most of their artists are dead and maybe they recognize that a lot of us take photos on our digital cameras and never print them.

What do you think?

Paris, Day 2: The Louvre

As a former art gallery director, a visit to Paris would not have been complete without a visit to the Louvre. Yet, when I finally arrived at this world renowned museum and saw the lines, I balked. I had three days in Paris. There was no way I wanted to spend my time in an endless queue!

In addition, it was an unseasonably warm April and the unrelenting afternoon sun forced several people to take refuge under their umbrellas. They came prepared, I wasn’t.

Paris, Day 2 The Louvre

The Pyramid, the main entrance to the Louvre – Maynefoto

No, there was no way I’d stand on that line, not even for the Louvre, I thought. Sitting by the fountain was infinitely more pleasant. But more than half an hour later, I was still there circling, taking photographs, people watching, undecided.

Finally, I came to my senses. Who was I fooling, I asked myself. Why come so close and not visit? I joined the line which, surprisingly, moved more quickly than I anticipated.

Louvre escalator

The escalator to the underground lobby – Maynefoto

The security guard checked my bag — the source of the slow moving lines — and I was finally in! As I entered the underground lobby, I spotted a bank of vending machines and within a few minutes, had ticket and museum brochure in hand.

Ceiling of the European Art collection

One of the most visited museums in the world, with 15,000 daily visitors, the Grand Louvre opened in the former Palais du Louvre in 1793. It contains nearly 400,000 objects, displays 35,000 artworks in eight curatorial departments and has almost 700,000 square feet dedicated to its permanent collection.

View of the Pyramid from inside – Maynefoto

With only a few hours to spend, I knew there was little chance that I’d get to see the Mona Lisa, without a doubt the Louvre’s most popular attraction, or the statue of Venus de Milo, so I decided to check out the Louvre’s collection of African and European art.

It turned out to be a good choice as I had to walk through the European gallery to find the African gallery, which was so well off the beaten path, I had to ask several security guards to help me find it. When I did, I exhaled and relaxed in the quiet.

African Art gallery, Louvre Museum – Maynefoto

Dedicated in April, 2000 by former French President Jacques Chirac, the African, Asian, Oceanic and American gallery was almost deserted — only one person, an artist or art student — who stood silently sketching one of the exhibits and a couple security guards. It was also much smaller than I anticipated but no less impressive. And the best part, I could enjoy the exhibits almost undisturbed. I didn’t have to dodge the backs of other viewers’ heads.

The Louvre Museum

Hours: Mondays, Thursday, Saturday and Sundays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays 9 a.m. – 10 p.m., closed on Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st and May 1st.

Fees: 10 € (Full day access), 6 € multimedia guide

Metro: Palais Royal Musee du Louvre station

Even though I spent only a few hours at the Louvre, I was overloaded visually by the time I left. But I’m very glad that I stayed. As an art lover, I would have been kicking myself now if I had not seen it.

The Louvre — worth a visit, even for a couple of hours.

New York’s Museum of Art and Design

NYC - Museum of Arts & Design

Image by wallyg via Flickr

New York City’s reputation as the destination for the visual arts is legendary. With major museums, art galleries and exhibition spaces, I could spend every Sunday visiting each one and not see everything on display. So I have to be strategic.

Last weekend, I decided to visit the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in its new home at Columbus Circle. The brainchild of Aileen Osborn Webb, it was opened in 1956 as the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, with its stated mission to celebrate the work of American craftspeople. The museum was renamed the American Craft Museum in 1979 and finally the Museum of Art and Design in 2002 to reflect its focus on the broader interplay between craft, design, art, architecture, interior design, technology and the performing arts.

My goal last Sunday was to catch the final day of an exhibition called the Global Africa Project, a sweeping look at contemporary African art, design and craft worldwide. Pieces were drawn from the works of over 100 artists working in interior design, fashion, sculpture, photography, paintings, furniture, jewelry, ceramics and textile from Africa, Asia, Europe, the United States and the Caribbean.

I wished I hadn’t waited until the last day as I felt rushed to take it all in but I’m glad I didn’t miss it. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about these artists, the majority of whom I hadn’t heard of before.

My next stop was to view the collection of tapestries documenting the collaboration of the feminist artist and educator, Judy Chicago and weaver Audrey Cowan and her husband, Bob. This is an impressive collection of work designed by Ms. Chicago and interpreted by Ms. Cowan.

The museum has an extensive collection of jewelry, the majority of which is housed in drawers which visitors are encouraged to check out. Most people, however, seem to miss the the sign.

Visit the Open Studios on the 6th floor to watch artists working in jewelry, ceramics, sculpture. Stop by the restaurant for lunch or visit the museum store on the main floor for gifts.

Museums tend to be overwhelming for me so I tend to select one exhibition and soak it all in. Though MAD is smaller than say, the Metropolitan, it’s possible to view all the exhibitions in a day.

One feature that I like is the ability of visitors to the museum’s website to view its collections and curate their own show, like I did here.

The Museum of Art and Design is located at 2 Columbus Circle. Open Tuesdays – Sundays from 11:00 – 6:00 p.m., Thursdays 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., closed on Mondays and major holidays. Entrance is free to members, high school students with ID and children under 12. General admission $15/$12 for seniors/students. On Thursdays from 6:00-9:00 p.m., you can pay as you wish.

A Partial List of Museums in New York

So for your next visit to New York City, make sure to add at least one museum to your list of things to do. Pack comfortable shoes and enjoy!

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Random Havana Photos

Yes, I have still more photos. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I took nearly 400 photos in just a week walking around Havana. There was that much to see.

Hotel Inglaterra, Havana

Hotel Inglaterra

Hotel Inglaterra from Parque Central

Hotel Inglaterra, seen from Havana’s Central Park


Havana Taxi

Getting around

Coco Taxis

Havana’s Coco taxis an eye catching jolt of color that can’t be ignored.

Monument to Jose Marti in Plaza de la Revolucion

Spanish tiles from the restaurant at the Hotel Ambos Mundos

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi outside the Convento de San Francisco in Old Havana

Ladies in the courtyard outside the Convento

Old Havana Street

Mural in Old Havana

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