The Art of Observing
During my little trip to the Vatican last week, I took a spin around the Pinacoteca, which is the amazing painting gallery there that is normally not very crowded. Most people whiz right toward the Vatican and ignore it, but here you’ll find a treasure trove of Giotto, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Leonardo. It was an interesting experience for me taking my camera there to shoot photos for the blog. I am an art historian and so normally when I step into a space like this, it’s all about me observing the art and my experience with the art. Good art has the power to move you and when it does, it’s an incredible experience, one that makes me remember why I fell in love with art history in the first place. This time, however, I took a step back and decided to observe people as they observed the art. What were they doing? I’m not ecstatic about the photos and how they came out, but it’s a starting point and a good point of discussion at least. Unfortunately what I saw made me a bit annoyed, as you will see a woman talking on her cell phone in front of Raphael’s Transfiguration. This is the Transfiguration people! The last work every completed by this master before he died and you are on the phone? This is not the place to be on the phone. I’m as technology obsessed as the next person, but these types of spaces are sacred. How can you possibly connect with a piece of art when you aren’t really even engaging it. It’s not just the woman on the phone, you will also see the couple that took a photo of themselves standing in front of every painting they saw. (There photo is not that great, but it was my only opportunity to snap without being obvious). Do you think these people even know what they are standing in front of?
My wish for more people is that they would just go somewhere like this and simply observe. I know it’s not a normal thing to do in this day and age, but don’t be concerned with whether something is famous or not, don’t look at the label and have that be the deciding factor in whether you like something or not. Go in, look, feel…this is the most important thing. Don’t listen to what people tell you that you “should” see, go toward what attracts you, as this is what you will remember. Otherwise it’s not even worth entering. Anyway, this is an interesting theme for me and something I will try to do more of. At least it will be an excuse to visit great museums!