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Posts Tagged ‘museums

“Museums are custodians of epiphanies”*…

 

Located on the campus of Georgia Southern University, the U.S. National Tick Collection is the world’s largest curated tick collection

Just one of the extraordinarily-specific museums– from umbrella covers to pencil sharpeners– one will find at “The Ultimate List of Wonderfully Specific Museums.”

* George Lois

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As we defer to the docent, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964, on the eve of a get-together, that T.S. Eliot wrote his pen pal Groucho Marx: “the picture of you in the newspapers saying that… you have come to London to see me has greatly enhanced my credit in the neighbourhood, and particularly with the greengrocer across the street. Obviously I am now someone of importance.”

More on their unlikely friendship here and here.

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Written by LW

June 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I went to the museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums”*…

 

The [Metropolitan Museum of Art] has entered the age of Big Data, and the catalogs have become a database. In December of last year, the museum uploaded its master spreadsheet, “MetObjects,” to a repository on GitHub, an online data and code repository; the version I’ll use here, uploaded on March 13, contains 446,123 objects. It’s a data set born of paint and pens, of scepters and swords…

When taken as a whole, the database reveals the Met’s cultural double helix. One strand is the institutional history of the Met, probably the single most important museum in the country. All of its global ambitions are present: its deals with foreign governments, its curatorial preferences, its big-dollar gifts and funding, its public failings. The other strand is the geopolitical history of the world: the rise and fall of empires, conquest and killing, natural disaster and migration, industrial revolution and invention. Together, those two strands form the Met’s DNA…

Now, thanks to FiveThirtyEight, you can see those genes– the Met’s collection– “sequenced” at “An Excavation Of One Of The World’s Greatest Art Collections.”

* Steven Wright

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As we opt for the audio guide, we might recall that it was on this date in 1893, in the text of Alfred Jarry’s play Guignol in L’Écho de Paris littéraire illustré, that the term– and the concept of– ‘pataphysics first appeared.  Jarry defined ‘pataphysics (derived from a contracted Greek formation that means “that which is above metaphysics”) as “the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.”  Jarry insisted on the inclusion of the apostrophe in the orthography, ‘pataphysique and ‘pataphysics, “to avoid a simple pun”… indeed Jarry’s aim was to compound the puns:  The term pataphysics is a paronym (considered a kind of pun in French) of metaphysics. Since the apostrophe in no way affects the meaning or pronunciation of pataphysics, this spelling of the term is a signal–a sly notation– to the reader, suggesting a variety of puns, among them patte à physique (“physics paw”), pas ta physique (“not your physics”), and pâte à physique (“physics pastry dough”).

Jarry’s concept was resurrected after World War II  with the foundation (in 1948) of The Collège de ‘Pataphysique, a “society committed to learned and inutilious research” (“inutilious” = “useless”).  Its members have included  Raymond Queneau, Eugène Ionesco, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Julien Torma, Roger Shattuck, Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx, and Marcel Duchamp.

Alfred Jarry

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Written by LW

April 28, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I like boring things”*…

 

EarthCam, The Andy Warhol Museum, and St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church present a special Andy Warhol experience: “The Warhol Cams.”

* Andy Warhol

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As we settle in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1941 that the National Gallery of Art was completed.  It was officially “received” the following day by President Franklin Roosevelt from Paul Mellon, the son of Andrew Mellon, whose gift funded the construction and whose collection of Old masters constituted the core of the new museum’s collection.  Now materially expanded, it remains open, free, to the public.

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Written by LW

March 16, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague”*…

 

In order to see the appeal of the forthcoming Morbid Anatomy Museum, you have to understand the death-centric collection—think skeletons, taxidermy, medical oddities— as neither kitschy nor creepy.

“I like to think about how our attitudes about things have changed; and in particular our attitudes about death, because I think that is the most fertile thing to examine,” says Joanna Ebenstein, the founder of the Morbid Anatomy Library, which is the basis of the museum. “The way we think about death now, these images seem completely inappropriate. It seems voyeuristic and wrong and horrible. But I would argue, in some ways, that they were dealing with grief in ways that we don’t really have a capability with any longer because we think it’s so inappropriate.”…

“It really speaks to how much we’ve changed as people that this could become exotic and other. It never was before; there was never a period in history where death was so other than now.” Confronting that chasm is, in part, the purpose of the museum…

The Morbid Anatomy Museum opens in Brooklyn next month, when it will feature its permanent collection (sampled in the photo above), a 2500-volume library, a lecture series, classes (e.g., taxidermy), and special exhibits (like Water Potter’s “Kitten Wedding,” from the 1890s, pictured below).

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Read more at “Coming Soon to Brooklyn: The Morbid Anatomy Museum.”

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we memento mori, we might we might send rebellious birthday greetings to Jean Vigo; he was born on this date in 1905.  The son of Catalan anarchists, Vigo migrated to Paris and became a film maker.  A founder (with Jean Renoir) of “poetic realism” in film, Vigo is best remembered for two films, both hugely impactful on French and world cinema: Zéro de conduite (1933) and L’Atalante (1934).  The former– a tale of rebellious school boys– was the inspiration for Lindsay Anderson’s marvelous If…; the latter– the story of a marriage falling apart, then healing– was chosen as the 10th-greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound’s 1962 poll, and as the 6th-best in its 1992 poll.  He’s widely considered the “grandfather” of the French New Wave, on whom he had an enormous influence.

Writing of Vigo’s death in The New York Times, film critic Andrew Johnston judged: “The ranks of the great film directors are short on Keatses and Shelleys, young artists cut off in their prime, leaving behind a handful of great works that suggest what might have been. But one who qualifies is Jean Vigo, the French director who died of tuberculosis at age 29 in 1934.”

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Written by LW

April 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The imaginary is not formed in opposition to reality… it takes shape in the interval between books. It is the phenomena of the library.”*…

 

Engraving from the Dell’Historia Naturale (1599) showing Naples apothecary Ferrante Imperato’s cabinet of curiosities, the first pictorial representation of such a collection.

In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of “remarkable books, antiquities, pictures and rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living”…

In an age of data retrieval, when just about anything ever printed can be seen online and is eternally preserved there, and when modern anxiety is fueled by too much information, we would do well to remember that the loss of books and artefacts was catastrophic until very recently in human history. The great library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria was burnt by the Romans in the first century AD, a legendary collection of ancient wisdom whose loss haunted Renaissance scholarship. European savants of the 15th and 16th centuries were, in the midst of their astonishing revival of classical writing, all too aware of what was irrecoverable and even unknown to them.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was such a scholar. His vast expertise in areas as diverse as embryology, anatomy, ornithology, ancient history and literature, etymology, local archaeology, and pharmacy, and his participation in the Baconian programme to rescue learning from the misapprehensions and erasures that had accumulated since the fall of man, made him especially sensitive to such losses. Musaeum Clausum, a small tract both playful and melancholy, seems to coalesce early-modern feelings about the unavailability of precious intellectual treasure.

Musaeum Clausum (the hidden library) is a fake catalogue of a collection that contained books, pictures, and artefacts. Such collections (and their elaborate indices) were a common phenomenon from about 1500 to 1700 and afterGentlemen and the nobility collected as a matter of polite engagement with knowledge and as a way of displaying wealth and learning; savants made arrays of plants, animals, and minerals as museums or ‘thesauruses’ of the natural world to record and organise their findings; imperial and monarchical collections were princely in their glamour, rarity, and sheer expenditure: these might contain natural-historical specimens but also trinkets and souvenirs from far-flung places, curiosities of nature and art, and historically significant items. For example, taxidermically preserved basilisks shared room with a thorn from Christ’s crown and feathered headdresses and weapons belonging to native American tribes. Browne takes these traditions of assemblage and makes a catalogue of marvellous things that have disappeared…

Browne’s is one of many examples of this form, the fake catalogue. Donne wrote one; Rabelais included one in Gargantua and Pantagruel. More typically such works were outright spoofs of learned curiosity, send-ups of random assemblages that John Evelyn judged to be no more than ‘indigested chaos’. But Browne, although he recognises the absurdity of some of his own items and is obviously trying for comic effect with certain ones, is probably more interested in a philosophy of antiquities, of the past and of existing knowledge as resurrected and preserved from the ravages of time and forgetfulness…

Read the full fascinating story at always-illuminating Public Domain Review.

* Michel Foucault

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As we engage encyclopedically, we might pause to send imaginative birthday greetings to Jules Ralph Feiffer; he was born on this date in 1929.  A syndicated cartoonist, author, playwright, and screenwriter, he’s best known for his long-running Village Voice  comic strip, Feiffer, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Feiffer broke into the trade at age 16 as an assistant to the immortal Will Eisner, who was at the time producing the strip The Spirit.  A couple of years later, Eisner countered Feiffer’s request for a raise with the offer of a page in the comic book version of The Spirit, which Feiffer used to create Clifford, his first successful strip.  His Village Voice strip ran for 42 years, and for most that period, was carried in other newspapers around the U.S. Feiffer’s plays include Little Murders (1967), Feiffer’s People (1969), Elliot Loves (1990), The White House Murder Case, and Grown Ups.  And after Mike Nichols adapted Feiffer’s (unproduced) play Carnal Knowledge as a 1971 film, Feiffer scripted Robert Altman’s Popeye, Alain Resnais’s I Want to Go Home, and the film adaptation of Little Murders.

In addition to the Pulitzer, Feiffer was the recipient of a George Polk Award for his cartoons, an Academy Award for his animated short Munro, and the Obie and Outer Circle Critics Awards (for Little Murders and The White House Murder Case).  He was elected in 1995 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2004, he was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame; that same year he received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award; and in 2006, he received the Creativity Foundation’s Laureate and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America.

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Written by LW

January 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

“What would I put in a museum? Probably a museum!”*…

From our friends at Coudal Partners (c.f. here, here, and here), The Museum of Online Museums

Here, you will find links from our archives to online collections and exhibits covering a vast array of interests and obsessions: Start with a review of classic art and architecture, and graduate to the study of mundane (and sometimes bizarre) objects elevated to art by their numbers, juxtaposition, or passion of the collector. The MoOM is organized into three sections.

 The Museum Campus contains links to brick-and-mortar museums with an interesting online presence. Most of these sites will have multiple exhibits from their collections (or, in the case of the Smithsonian, displays of items not on display in the Washington museum itself).

 The Permanent Collection displays links to exhibits of particular interest to design and advertising.

 Galleries, Exhibition, and Shows is an eclectic and ever-changing list of interesting links to collections and galleries, most of them hosted on personal web pages. In other words, it’s where all the good stuff is.

Aside from the quarterly list of links, we pull out five collections of particular interest and highlight them. New to the MoOM this fall will be the The Benefactors’ Gallery, in which our Board of Directors will post links to their own and other notable collections.

One thing you won’t find at MoOM are collections of posters or maps. As particular interests of ours, posters and maps have their own departments in the coudal.com archives. Find them and be lost for hours. [Your correspondent was…]

*John Hodgman

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As we rethink the idea of “walls,” we might spare a fevered dream or two for Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol; he died on this date in 1989.  Best known by the name with which he signed his artwork, Salvador Dali, he was a prominent Surrealist, whose work was distinguished by his fine draughtsmanship and his obsession with symbolism.  Cited as an artistic influence by the likes of Damien Hirst, Noel Fielding, and Jeff Koons, it seems likely that Dali’s gifted self-promotion was similarly an inspiration to Warhol.

The only difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad.
– Salvador Dali

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Written by LW

January 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

Standing watch…

 

From Minneapolis’ glorious Walker Art Center, Todd Balthazor‘s musings on the life of a museum guard

Larger versions of these comics, and many more, at the Walker’s MNArtists blog.

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As we wax philosophical, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that the British government, making good on an election pledge, dropped all entry fees to 13 of Britain’s most popular government-sponsored museums, including the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert.  Shortly, others– including the Tate Modern and the Imperial War Museum– followed; and over the ensuing decade, attendance rose by over 150%.

The National Gallery

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Written by LW

December 1, 2013 at 1:01 am

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