Monday, August 31, 2009

We Can't Change That!

I'm often reminded that museums are in fact, pretty conservative places. Despite the fact that we show the work of those who broke the rules as artists, or who were game-changers in history, we cling to the way we've always done things. So it was a wonderful surprise in Dresden, in what seemed like one of the most conservative, old-line museums you could imagine--to see things done differently.

The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) has an incredible collection of Old Masters, just as the name implies. Rembrandt, Raphael, Vermeer, Rubens, Canaletto. But imagine my surprise when I walked in a room and saw a Native American totem pole next to a Rembrandt; and then, throughout the permanent collections, other artifacts from cultures around the world, installed next to these very traditional works of Western art. These weren't shunted off into a separate room, or next to less-than-important works of art. One installation was with Raphael's Sistine Madonna, considered the most important work in the collection.

Bright green labels provided the explanation and my rudimentary German (their website, and Google Translate) tell me that this is a joint project of the museum and the anthropological museum in Dresden--designed to explore themes that are common in all cultures--the struggle between good and evil, for instance.

I was intrigued by the project, but even more intrigued by the fact that the museum staff let go of things as they've always been (and by the way, you can also check out the museum in Second Life). So my take-away from this visit:

Get over it! Try something new!

And, in my ongoing quest for pictures--also very nice that they let you take photographs.

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