torsdag 11. juni 2009

From Jeff Wall

I like old museums, especially when they retain their original character, or at least don’t depart too much from it. I also like new ones, when they are done well. So I am not a supporter of old as opposed to new museums. I am only a supporter of good ones. By good, I mean ones that have a certain soul, as well as having fundamental quality in the design and execution. And of course, whose collections are worth seeing repeatedly. I think some new galleries and museums already do have that kind of soul, that individual, even idiosyncratic character that will be appreciated more and more as they age. The National Gallery in Oslo is a place where I experienced the presentation of a significant moment in the evolution of modern art. The presentation is a combination of the pictures in the collection, the way they are presented, and the nature of the building. Things have moved on from the moment captured in that presentation, and the situation there is no longer ‘of the moment’. It is isolated in time and space and it seems not to be related to the art of the present. But this is an illusion because the capture of this moment continues to be available to contemporary experience. We can revisit that moment any time we enter the National Gallery. If the moment were insignificant, we would not likely be very interested in revisiting it. But I believe it is significant, both for the Norwegian people and for foreigners like me. I had a beautiful afternoon looking at the collection in the rooms in which it was originally installed. I could not think of a better way to look at the work of Christian Krohg, Munch, and others. I am sure I will never forget those hours and that the experience has affected my life and work in some meaningful way. There are good architects making good buildings today; but I am not sure whether any contemporary museum designs improve on the serenely proportioned and beautifully lit rooms of places like the National Gallery. At best, they provide an up-to-date version of the same thing. Otherwise, they are simply less good, and therefore represent a decline in the manner of presenting works of art. I’ve visited and exhibited in scores of museums, but I remember many of them less than I do the National Gallery. I believe the National Gallery is one of a diminishing number of superb situations for engaging with art. Superb in their tasteful design and regard for the collections they protect, and superb in preserving a sense of what the art has meant in the place and to the people who live there. I think it is wrong to look at the National Gallery as ‘old’, just as it is wrong to look at the art of Edvard Munch as ‘old’. These accomplishments do not age the way other things do. Their capture of the moment in which they were created banishes the mundane passing of time and creates a permanent present. The sick girl in Munch’s picture will always be ill; she will never recover and she will never die. And that tells us about how to look at the museum where that girl can be visited: it will never be contemporary and it will never be outmoded.

Dear Carina & Ingrid,
Here’s a note about the gallery and how I see it.
I hope it will be of some regards,

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