Monday, June 23, 2008
Museums and galleries are too big. Both Tate Modern and MOMA in New York suffer from a giganticism that is more to do with institutional ambition than art. Both, oddly, are dominated by enormous, pointless voids which seem to push the art to the periphery. Perhaps this is a deliberate commentary - art enfolds emptiness. The small museum has no voids. Until yesterday my favourite museum in the entire world was the Frick in New York - a little palace full of masterpieces. Yesterday, however, it was replaced in my affections by the Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston. I won't even try to evoke the genius of this place, but it's basically a Venetian fantasy and it has plenty of darkness. I like Venice and darkness. Of course, it also has masterpieces, a sublime early Rembrandt self portrait, a magnificent Velazquez, a perfect Fra Angelico and this late Titian, said by some to be the greatest painting in America. The one shortcoming of the ISG seems to be its vulnerability to theft. They have even lost a Vermeer which is a touch careless. Never mind, small is the future. It's time to break up the big collections and distribute them around local palaces designed and built by fiendishly rich aesthetes, if any are left.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 11:55 am