As part of the Art History class that I took in Clemente Course program this Spring semester, the class had a trip to Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Though this is not the first art museum I ever visited; I went to Van Gogh Museum and RijksMuseum in Amsterdam, New Bedford Museum of Art, and Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York City (at some point I couldn’t remember whether I ever visited any of arts museum in Jakarta or Bandung….hmm), but this visitation to MFA is the most exciting and impressive one.
The reason why it is very impressive to me is not because of the collections of MFA that is better than the others..But simply because I started to educate myself a little bit more about HOW to appreciate an artwork. Sounds pretty smart-ass, am I? But it’s true!
The Art History class is my most favorite subject in Clemente so far (compare with US history, philosophy, literature, public speaking, and writing). And part of it maybe because of the books that we use for this study; a 1150 pages (5 kg it is!) full color Gardners Art Through the Ages12th Edition (Kleiner & Mamiya) and American Visions (Robert Hughes), the other part is because of the way my lecturer Memory Holloway teaches us with her enthusiasm and passion.
When I see an artwork (or a masterpiece) at museums or other historical building/places (like statues, sculptures, architectures), usually my best appreciation towards it was only “Wow….Beautiful”, or most of the time just showed my awe in “ck..ck…ck” – kind of sounds (with a little geleng-geleng kepala) . But now, since I learn more about art history, my attention to an artwork would be consider this:
1. Form –> Who is the artist? What form/ materials does he/she use to make the artwork?
2. Meaning / Iconography –> See many symbolism through the object that surround the subject that the artist paint (e.g. the dress, the hat, the smile, colors, gestures, etc)
3. Social Context –> Who is the subject that he/she painted? Is the subject related to a historical event by that time/era? What is going on in that era (when it is being painted)?
It is not easy to appreciate art this way, because you need to know the history behind the artwork to appreciate it more.
And during this visit, I have to control my urge to escape from the group; so I can get to see more exhibitions at the museum. And I did it well and not regret my decision to stick with the group….! This way I can learn more about the objects of artworks in The Art of Americas Wing (19th to early 20th Century arts) from the museum’s curator and my professor; mostly the paintings that we have studied in class such as Homer, Mary Cassatt, Sargent, Copley, Warhol, etc.
With only 2 hours in the museum (with 1.5 hour spent with the group, during the last minutes I managed to go around and see some collections in Contemporary Art, Musical Instruments and Jewelry sections. The rest….Probably within my next visit with Ara and the kids 😉
- If you happened to be in Boston on Wednesday evening (after 4 PM), the museum offers a FREE admission for public (we went there on Wed night, which is now I know why the students can bring as many people as we want for this trip). This is awesome since the regular admission is $22 for adult and $20 for seniors and student. MFA is open 7 days a week from 10 AM to 4.45 PM (Mon, Tue, Sat, Sun) and 10 AM to 9.45 PM ( Wed to Fri).
- Check your library membership, they might offering half pricing for the admission; like in SAILS library network in New Bedford & surroundings area.
- Plan your visit…! Check what is the highlights of the museum’s exhibitions and what’s new (some artists might have a special exhibition going on for limited period of time). Because (most) museum is very HUGE it is impossible to see all the exhibitions. So don’t be greedy – unless your motto is “see as many as possible” collections. Go ahead. But probably you will not get any valuable knowledge just seeing it – without take a closer look about the piece.
- Unlike in Boston, many museums in NYC are having a suggested price for museums admission. Meaning you are free to decide what amount of money you want to give for the museum admission. Could be $1, let’ say. This is based on my last visit to American Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art. And in Washington DC, most museums are FREE as part of Smithsonian Institution.