Philadelphia Museum of Art is a spectacular place to view art through the ages with exhibitions changing ever couple of months. Whether in sculpture, photograph or painting, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has much to offer. The current exhibition holds art from various artists that show vibrant energy through fine depictions of people, landscapes, and abstract images. This essay is meant to show the quality of the pieces within the exhibits as well as a proposal to improve the layout and collections the Museum has.
PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART has several exhibits to offer. The first exhibit that was the most apparent was “The Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian” that will last on display until December 6, 2015. The Wrath of the Gods concentrates on the artist Peter Paul Ruben’s most notable work, Prometheus Bound. That piece shows a singular vision of torment, pain, as well as creative struggle. It is considered by the Museum as one of the most prized works in their collection. Hence why the exhibit is features so prominently and one of the main things to see in the Museum.
The Museum pairs the artwork with various drawings, prints, and paintings that inspired it. Highlights from the exhibit include Titian’s Tityus, the biggest nonreligious painting done on canvas of the Renaissance. Another noteworthy piece is Michelangelo’s Tityus. These images make everything easier to analyze and allows viewers a better chance to delve into art history and famous painters’ creative process.
Another exhibit ending in mid-November 2015 is the Inside Out exhibit. It features 60 high-quality copies of Museum masterpieces. Although a bit confusing and hard to see them all, it offers a look into the neighborhoods in and around the region. The replicas are literally put outside shops and other public buildings.
It is a lot of walking to say the least. Each neighborhood highlighted, features 10 selected artworks and provides those that come, variety with pieces being outdoors and displayed as signs and so forth. This was the most confusing and hard to spot exhibit that made it feel like the Museum was trying too hard to be unique. I would have simply brought in original artwork from regional artists into the Museum than to have replicas put on various stores and shops. It feels odd.
There was another exhibit “Northern Lights: Scandinavian Design” that was not very exciting because it felt like I was in a furniture store. The ceramics, metalwork, glass, textiles, and furniture in the exhibit were created in Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. The Scandinavian theme is complete with lamps and several pieces like the “Egg” armchair on prominent display. Although the furniture felt weird within the gallery, I did enjoy the textiles. Had the simply put textiles and perhaps light fixtures lighting the textiles that came from Scandinavia that would have made things much more enjoyable. I could not take a closer look at most of the pieces because they were up off the floor and no one could reach it.
“Into Dust: Traces of the Fragile in Contemporary Art,” which will be gone by the end of October, is an exhibition that features recent acquisitions as well as other modern works from the Museum’s varied collection that confronts the delicate nature of the “human condition.” Some examples include Gabriel Orozco, David Weis and Peter Fischli, and Alina Szapocznikow. I want to like this exhibit because the work is so transcendental, but when one goes into the entrance of the exhibit, there is this one long strand of lightbulbs cascading down onto a circle platform. This piece is called “Untitled” (Petiti Palais), is by American Felix Gonzalez, and feels off compared to the other artworks.
When one gets inside, it is very sparse with white walls and an electrical-wire sculpture that hands near Photosculptures, a portfolio by Alina Szapcoznikow that contains 20 black and white photographs. The brightness from the initial piece is in stark contrast to the darkness of the other pieces and feels disjointed. If the rest of the work is emotional and dark, why open with something bright and ethereal? The plaster molds (74) from human models titled Navels also feels oddly placed as all the pieces are put on a table. There two rocks in one room and it just feels like a waste of space. I would put all the pieces closer together in a fluid movement to convey emotion. Keeping them scattered and far apart creates disconnectedness.
AMOR by Robert Indiana is another exhibit that honors Pope Francis and his visit to America. It is a monumental sculpture at six feet high and is located on the Museum’s East Terrace. “Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath” is one of my favorite exhibits of the Museum because it offers a comprehensive survey of the photographer Heath’s deeply personal work done early in his career. The photographs are in black and white and show his pain as he experienced the foster care system and being abandoned by his parents. Vengeful Sister gives a brilliant look at a boy’s pain as he deals with the discomforts of childhood.
I would not change anything in this exhibit. The photographs are beautiful and they work together to show one clear image, hardship with a little bits of joy in between. Another smaller exhibit is “Cy Twombly: Sculptures.” Taking cues from the famous Dada movement, the sculptures take on a visual representation of ancient fights. It is an interesting collection that I would view again and not much would be changed.
In terms of programs, the Museum offers teacher programs, school tours, and programs and gives the option of arranging school visits online. They also offer distance learning and teacher resources. Programs for students are offered based on grade level from preschool, K-3, and 4-12. The preschool program offers picture book readings and exploration of art related to the books read. The classes are not free and people wanting their children to take the class will have to pay $90 per class.
The K-3 program offers collection tours that include discussions, small group work and worksheets. The 4-12 program does the same in respect to collection tours, but also gives introductory lessons where students learn to examine and discuss art. The lessons focus on an assortment of subjects. They include medieval art, arms and armor, African-American art, and art of the Renaissance.
The website is beautifully maintained with easy access to collections, exhibits and so forth. There are videos on some of the exhibition pages that show the various artwork. There are also slideshows. The website gives information on programs with easy to spot program fees. They include an “About Us” section and a “Join and Support” section that makes exploring the Museum that much easier.
The Museum offers a Donate Online section on the website so people can support the Museum. They also have an Annual Fund page where people can donate for the next year’s work. They have sections for corporate giving and membership to further support the Museum and its endeavors. They offer pamphlets when one enters and provides information on donating to help the Museum acquire more works of art.
Part Two: Proposal
The Museum has several strengths, gut also weaknesses. In this section, I will provide a proposal that will help The Philadelphia Museum of Art increase donations and interest within the community. The first thing to point out is the concept of having outdoor art. While this seems like a unique and interesting idea, having artwork around the neighborhood is strange. People when they go to a Museum, they want to stay in the Museum and perhaps go out onto the property to view outdoor exhibits, but not actually venture out into the neighborhood. It takes the focus out of the Museum and into the community. While this is great for raising awareness about the surrounding community, it does nothing to highlight the Museum and its efforts.
If the Museum wants to truly do something unique and entertaining, but also help promote the museum, one suggestion is a flash mob. A Dutch Museum had resounding success with a flash mob strategy. “Rembrandt’s masterpiece the ‘Night Watch’ returns to RijksMuseum, a Dutch national Museum in Amsterdam, after a decade of renovations. To mark the reopening, the Museum surprised visitors at a local shopping mall with a flash mob featuring real-life 17th century night watch” (Dailypicksandflicks.com, 2015). Flash mobs draw attention and entertain the audience watching. That is what gets people to come and keeps them coming. When they feel entertained and find a source of stress relief in what they view, they will be happy to keep coming back for more.
A tourism site offers insight in what makes a museum attractive to visitors and tourists. They highlight the need for museums to tell stories with the artwork they exhibit to make a connection with the visitor. “The essence of excellent interpretation (and exhibit development) is powerful, intriguing, challenging or entertaining stories … told powerfully by talented storytellers. Successful curators fully understand and apply this principle” (Developtourism.com, 2015). One the exhibits mentioned earlier (that dealt with the human condition) was boring and lacked texture and connection. The pieces felt off, as they did not combine. The walls were white which nothing on them. It felt cold and too spacious with most pieces far apart and nothing in between.
People like to see, hear, touch, and smell when they experience something. Innovative ways to make exhibits interesting can be utilizing light and sounds to evoke intrigue. “When creating visitor experiences (and storytelling in general), it pays to tap into all the available human senses – i.e. sight, sound, touch, taste and smell (when relevant). How this is best done will also relate to how well you know your visitor markets” Just like stores spray pleasant scents into the air to draw customers, exhibits can include scents to create memory and connection with visitors. A scent of macaroni and cheese with scents of clean laundry can do wonder with connecting the visitor to the artwork (Developtourism.com, 2015).
Another thing that helps with engaging visitors is having some element of social media intertwined with the Museum’s processes. “Different from other more traditional art museums, The Andy Warhol Museum can use Warholian pop culture to tap into the fun and poppy nature of social media — namely Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Vine” (Hootsuite Social Media Management, 2013). The Museum for example, can have a selfie spot located near the entrance of the Museum or scattered throughout so people can take pictures and post their experience online. This attracts attention to the Museum and provides younger people with a chance to mention how much the enjoyed the Museum. They can also offer a free app that visitors can download and use to learn more about the pieces and artworks on display. “Creating an app called The Warhol: D.I.Y. Pop, the museum’s social team lets fans create their own Warhol inspired image and share it with other art fans across social media” (Hootsuite Social Media Management, 2013).
Although the Museum offers many programs for children to learn, they do not offer things that families can do. Free activities not only make people want to come to museums, but make them more open to donate. Scavenger hunts make for great learning activities. “Scavenger Hunts explore a variety of exhibits throughout the museum, which include questions to help support observation and recording skills. Answer keys are available at Visitor Services” (Naturalhistory.ku.edu, 2015). A simple map given to visitors free that offer a checklist of things to look for in exhibits can engage families and promote them to work together and do something other than stare blankly at artwork.
People love solving puzzles and getting the answers to mysteries. The prize at the end of the treasure hunt can be a word or phrase that they will only find out by finding each item on the list. That phrase or code could be a password for them to access some information or app on the Museum website. Families always look for things to do together. This offers a free entertainment and a memorable experience at the Museum.
Elderly people also want to engage in fun activities when they visit museums. They especially want places to sit, relax, and socialize. Museum associations realize the need for museums to adapt to the continual needs of the elderly and some have implemented programs that provide learning and socializing opportunities for the elderly. “Increased well-being, seen in DPG’s program, Good Times: Art for Older People, has been evaluated through successful research partnerships, realizing that the positive physical, mental and social outcomes are far-reaching and not limited to the participant alone” (Museumsassociation.org, 2015).
Museums that implement these kinds of programs have resounding success. “The popularity of the program is testament to this: the guided tours, in-house creative arts workshops, integrated arts projects and outreach sessions of art-making and discussion are more in demand than they have ever been” (Museumsassociation.org, 2015). This is because elderly need stimulation and chances to make friends and connect with their community. If museums offer that, especially discounts for elderly involved in AARP or museum memberships, the elderly visitors will desire to go the museums and keep going in order to receive more stimulation.
Just like museums, have programs for students. They should have programs for just elderly. The elderly can learn how to make things or paint and will have opportunities to socialize with people their age. Tours and instruction can offer older visitors a chance to relearn some of the things they lost or keep their memory fresh.
In conclusion, The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a great place to visit. However, some things can use some alteration. The first would be eliminating space between artwork and eliminating outdoor artwork that is not located on the property. People need to become interested in the Museum and what is can offer versus an external distraction.
People also need engagement of their senses. Having a lot of space between artwork detracts people from learning and makes the exhibitions less memorable. In order to have younger visitors interested in the Museum, the Museum can have “self-spots” where anyone can take a picture and post via social media sites. In order to attract families they can have free scavenger hunts and apps.
The elderly are also important parts of the visitor population. They should also be engaged. Programs dedicated to enabling learning and socialization in the elderly may boost visitor numbers and donations.
Dailypicksandflicks.com,. (2015). Rijksmuseum: Rembrandt’s Night Watch in Real Life (Video). Retrieved 30 September 2015, from http://dailypicksandflicks.com/2013/04/02/rijksmuseum-rembrandts-night-watch-in-real-life-video/
Developtourism.com,. (2015). museumsuccessfactors. Retrieved 30 September 2015, from http://www.developtourism.com/museumsuccessfactors.htm
Hootsuite Social Media Management,. (2013). The Best Ways for Museums and Art Organizations to be Social. Retrieved 30 September 2015, from http://blog.hootsuite.com/social-museums-art-organizations/
Museumsassociation.org,. (2015). Engaging the elderly — Museums Association. Retrieved 30 September 2015, from http://www.museumsassociation.org/comment/26032013-michelle-weiner-engaging-the-elderly
Naturalhistory.ku.edu,. (2015). — KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum. Retrieved 30 September 2015, from http://naturalhistory.ku.edu/visit/discovery-guides
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