Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pablo hummy

As you enter the exhibition Picasso: Challenging the Past (at the National Gallery until June 7), you’re confronted with a sign declaring: “LECTURING IS NOT PERMITTED IN THE EXHIBITION”.

Which raises a number of questions, not least the precise definition of lecturing. Obviously you don’t want your viewing disturbed by 47 wannabe Schamas, what exactly is the distinction between that and the sort of low-level explicatory natter that two friends might share when looking at a painting? While it’s deeply annoying to get an unsolicited running commentary during a film or play, a certain level of chat is tolerable in the otherwise silent gallery.

Although of course, it’s not silent: the ambient noise of the modern gallery is the fractured buzz leaking from those bloody headphones, all slightly out of sync with each other, as if a Tube carriage-full of commuters had all started the same track on their iPods at two-second intervals. To be honest, I’d rather have a wannabe Schama, even at the risk of provoking a scene like this:

As it was, the main distraction from the buzz (apart from the exhibition itself, of course, which is quite good, but a bit short for 12 quid) was the sight of a lady sitting and sketching in front of ‘Women of Algiers (After Delacroix)’, apparently unfazed by all the people standing in her way. Only by looking over her shoulder did I realise that she was drawing the people, not the painting.


Rog said...

Nice title Tim.

Garth said...

When did you sit for the portrait Tim? :)

Tim F said...

Thanks, Rog. Been carrying it in my back pocket for years, waiting for a suitable Picasso/background noise interface.

Startling likeness, isn't it, PI? I think Magritte might get edged out before long.

Dick Headley said...

Might be fun to run the Magritte tape at the Picasso exhibit...see if anybody complains?

Sid Smith said...

Last year a pal and I went to see the Rothko and Bacon shows at the Tate galleries. In the morning we bumped into Sister Wendy who was being guided around for a radio spot.

Upriver we were wandering around the Francis Bacon exhibition and I heard a voice that was exactly like Simon Schama. Of course it was Schama - with a colleague quietly wandering around commenting here and there very much in a private capacity.

Much to our joy one loud commentator offering an intense interpretation paused at the end of long summary - evidently pleased with himself. Schama, who had been standing behind for the much of it, very gently mentioned that he thought the person had underestimated the degree of control required in a certain series of brush strokes. It was quite the Marshall McLuhan experience you've illustrated but it's as close as I've seen.

That day out can be seen here

Billy said...

Don't you need more than two people listening to make it a lecture?

Tim F said...

See if anybody *notices*, Dick.

That's glorious serendipity, Sid. All you needed was Rolf Harris, and you'd have earned a badge.

Not at all, Billy. I'm quite capable of lecturing one-on-one.