I have always enjoyed crowd watching, especially in museums. There are so many rules of behavior in a museum and when the museum is crowded these rules collide with a general desire to scream, toss someone out the window, push the others away. With all those people around you can’t stand in awe in front of the canonized work of art, admire it at length, bend to take a closer look, discuss it with your companions. And sometimes the crowds at the Louvre, National Gallery or Prado are so massive that you just resign and walk past with a distant look towards the Mona Lisa or Las Meninas. And sometimes that resignation feels great because you managed to be all nonchalant about it.
Well. This week’s photo is from the newly reopened Neues Museum in Berlin where the famous portrait of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti has now taken up her permanent residence. As any celebrity art work she has her very own setting – a circular room with dimmed lights and a guard shouting at people who get too near.
I think this picture has all the elements of art worshipping. People gazing admiringly and two people taking pictures (me included) even though you could buy a much better postcard version in the bookshop – you just need to document your presence.
And by the way – as with all of those canonized works it does matter to see Nefertiti in the flesh. I don’t agree with those who say they are always disappointed at the sight of some famous painting or sculpture. I never was. Not even with the Mona Lisa. My nonchalance will never go that far and I think it has less to do with worshipping than with actually beholding the delicate details that make up a masterpiece. Details, shadings and gradings that a reproduction will never catch, and even more so with sculpture where you will need to experience the form in space in order to understand it. So that’s why I keep going to museums.