I have to say visiting galleries is not my favourite past time.
This may be a rather obscure statement seeing how I’m studying Art History for my degree, but I think that galleries are not particularly friendly or inviting places.
I find galleries like Manchester Art Gallery, The Whitworth and even Castlefield Gallery manipulative, pretentious and excluding of certain classes. All these galleries would like to think that they are welcoming for all people from all classes and races but they’re just not, because going to a gallery is still seen as an upper/middle class white activity.
We are subliminally told how to act and behave the moment we walk through their doors.
From the minute I walk into a gallery I feel I am directed a certain way around it. They offer you a map, that points out certain works of art that you SHOULD be looking at along your way around it’s many rooms. These “chosen” art works are illuminated with spot lights that scream “LOOK AT THIS ONE! THIS IS THE IMPORTANT ONE.” there’s usually a bench that accompanies these lights, where you should sit and contemplate this art work. They manipulate you into thinking that this is the piece that you should form opinions around, the piece that you should know about above all the others in the room. But why? Why, should we be led down that path?
What’s wrong with looking around the room and finding the piece that you connect with on another level? Whether thats emotional or spiritually or simply just because you think it’s the prettiest one in the room!
The acoustics of a gallery room are a rather specular trick. We all know that it’s a sin to talk in more than a hushed whisper in an art gallery, no one is supposed to hear our thoughts and opinions on the art works that surround us. If you so much as raise your voice in one of those rooms, the vibrations reverberate off the walls, and before you know it your voice is echoing all around the room and you’re left very red faced. Those rooms are created to make you feel self conscious, so you feel like you can’t express your opinions therefore you adhere to the institution’s opinions instead and accept them as your own without challenge.
Everything, right down to the language used on the little white plagues next to the art work exclude certain people.
Is it really that hard to write those plaques in non academic language?