Art in Real Life: Pompidou Centre

Pompidou Intro
The Georges Pompidou Centre piazza with a Calder mobile on display

The Georges Pompidou Centre is the next art mecca featured in our Parisian series of new “Art in Real Life” posts. After the massive and crowded Louvre (where we saw a huge variety of paintings from 1280-1845), I found it exciting to experience art from the last century in the dynamic and slightly less touristy Pompidou Centre. Inside, I took a handful of photos that demonstrate the wide variety of sizes that Modern and Contemporary artists employed when constructing their masterpieces. It was certainly enlightening to see these works of art in their actual contexts and experience them on a human scale.

The Pompidou Centre can be confusing. First of all, it’s not just a museum. Scratch that – it’s not a museum at all. The Centre is really a complex that houses the Musée National d’Art Moderne (which is a museum) as well as a cinema, library, venue for exhibitions, restaurant, and a center for acoustic and music research. All of this is encased in a Renzo Piano/Richard Rogers building that was completed in 1977–a striking inside-out design that led to its label as Paris’s “own monster.” However, the building has also been credited by the New York Times with turning “the architecture world upside down . . . [it] revolutionized museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city” (click here for the full article).

The museum within boasts the largest collection of Modern and Contemporary Art in Europe: over 60,000 objects. And despite being in a large complex, the two floors in the Centre devoted to art are in fact extremely easy to navigate and visitor-friendly. The first floor highlights the various movements of Modern Art as you move from room to room, while the second explores themes and materials prominent in the Contemporary Art world. While it was exciting to see in person many of the artworks I’d studied in school, I also enjoyed engaging with the collection’s lesser-known works by important artists. I’ve included some of them here and I hope you enjoy them as well.

Read on to view some of the Pompidou’s Modern and Contemporary masterpieces! Continue reading Art in Real Life: Pompidou Centre

Art in Real Life: Musée du Louvre

Louvre Intro Image
The Louvre Museum at night featuring I.M. Pei’s Glass Pyramid (1989) that serves as the main entrance.

Like many of you, I’ve seen every masterpiece of Western Art. The Mona Lisa? Yes. Starry Night? Of course. Girl With a Pearl Earring? Many times. But let me clarify: I’ve seen these extraordinary works of art over and over again in classes, on posters, and online. They’re usually extremely oversized (art history lectures, posters, movies) or cut into details (magnets, mugs, exhibition catalogues), and always completely out of context and proportion. That’s why we decided to create the “Art in Real Life” series: we wanted to give you a sense of the true size of works of art as compared to the average viewer.

Inspired by trips to famous museums during our studies abroad, we’ve created posts with photographs that show some of the world’s most famous masterpieces in their actual context. There’s nothing that can replace the experience of seeing a work of art in person, so our biggest hope is that this series will be a resource and inspiration for exploring these masterpieces more deeply.

My recent trip to Paris inspired several new Art in Real Life posts. This first post will focus on the Musée du Louvre, arguably the world’s most famous museum, as well as the one with the highest concentration of recognizable masterpieces in its vast collections. These collections add up to a total of 380,000 objects from prehistory to the present–only 9.2% are on view at any given time. The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum, with over 15,000 national and international patrons a day, and it certainly feels that way when you’re trying to fight through the crowds! Visiting the Louvre is a surreal experience since there seems to be a recognizable masterpiece (or a room of them) around every corner. I can guarantee that you will get lost, but you’ll probably find something interesting along the way… for example, I recently found the Louvre’s new galleries of Islamic Art, which are housed under a sunny pavilion in a courtyard.

To view the many masterpieces, read on!

Continue reading Art in Real Life: Musée du Louvre

How to Get a Museum Internship

Gallery of the Louvre (1831-33) by Samuel B. Morse, Oil on canvas, 187.3 x 274.3 cm, Terra Foundation for American Art
Gallery of the Louvre (1831-33) by Samuel B. Morse, Oil on canvas, 187.3 x 274.3 cm, Terra Foundation for American Art

I have been lucky enough to be a volunteer, unpaid intern, paid intern, and full-fledged hired employee in a lot of different museums–from the very small and specific, to the medium-sized, to the encyclopedic and kinda famous. As I’ve now completely transitioned into supervising interns myself rather than being one, I thought it was high time I write a post about how to go about getting an internship in a museum.

Just So You Know…
I want to note that this is based on my personal experience only–and is really just a collection of tips, tricks, and things to know that I’ve accumulated along the way. Take it all with a grain of salt, and make your own journey!

Also, I’m a hands-on learner and deeply believe that while theory is important, there is truly no substitute for being in a museum office setting. Even if you’re only making copies, you’re still learning a ton more than if you were only hearing about it from a professor. I feel very strongly about hands-on learning, but if you are a more theoretical kind of learner, some of my advice might not be for you.

Continue reading How to Get a Museum Internship

Informed Selection or Narrow Vision?

Willem de Kooning | Woman I | 1950-52 | Oil on canvas | 6′ 7 3/8 in. x 58 in. | The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Let’s start with a visualization exercise. Think about this artwork by Willem de Kooning (left). What do you see? My guess is an abstracted woman, painted in quick gestures with vivid colors. Let’s try again. Now, think about Gustav Klimt (an example of his work is below). I’m guessing you see beautiful figures, arranged flatly and stylized in Klimt’s signature mosaic/symbolist fashion. So why do you see these specific images? Well, any Google Image search will tell you that basically everyone sees the same visions when they think of these two celebrated artists. But the question persists – why do fairly narrow stylistic conventions define these artists so overwhelmingly?

This past week, I had the pleasure of seeing the de Kooning retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. This massive exhibition is the first by a major museum to look at the full scope of the artist’s career. I had no strong feelings about de Kooning either way–I respect his importance in the development of Abstract Expressionism, but aesthetically his work is not my cup of tea–but I still wanted to see the landmark show. Covering all 93 years of the artist’s life, MoMA divided his career into nine sections. To my surprise, only about ten years contained artwork that I would describe as instantly recognizable “de Koonings.” Spread into three sections, this is where you could find the Women series and other hallmarks. Continue reading Informed Selection or Narrow Vision?

On Museums and Museum Education

My goodness gracious, readers. Has it been a while or what? Our last post was nearly a year ago in January 2011. On the eve of January 2012, I thought I would pop in and share some updates and other more recent museum-related musings with you.

I’m still working as a museum educator in Milwaukee, WI and my colleague is now a gallery director in New York City. We love this site and care deeply about it, but when you write about museums and art history all day long, it’s difficult to do so in your free time, too. That said, we’re thrilled that folks continue to come visit the site, and hope its archives continue to inspire, provoke, and further your thinking about art, art history, and museums.

For my day job, I frequently post about my profession and art history on our institution’s blog. Many of them are general enough to share with you here, so I hope you’ll check them out and find them useful. Continue reading On Museums and Museum Education

Art Baking: Venus Madeleines

Told you we’d pop in once in a while with a post! Just want to point any readers out there to this art-inspired recipe I dreamed up on my baking blog: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Madeleines. I know all you art historians out there will get the joke right away, so just click on through and check out the rest of the pictures and the recipe.

We’re on hiatus!

Although it may be obvious at this point, the Art History Blog is on hiatus. My fellow blog writer and I have now graduated from college and are finishing up our first years as full-blown museum professionals — which means that while we still, of course, love art history with every fiber of our beings, it’s a little harder to write solid, worthy posts for this blog after our art-history-filled work days!

We’ll pop in every so often with a post and will hopefully one day be back to posting regularly, so keep us on your bookmarks. Till then, you can follow either of us at our respective museums on Twitter at MAM_Chelsea (me) or NBMAA (Alexander), and check out some of the other art history blogs that won awards for being a top art/art history blog this year, below [site now defunct]. In addition, feel free to get in touch with us if you like. Thank you so much for your support of this blog!

Who Shot Andy Warhol? (The Musical)

POP! A New Musical @ Yale Repertory Theater
POP! A New Musical @ Yale Repertory Theater


I was thrilled when I saw a poster promoting a new musical based on the life and art of Andy Warhol.

The world premiere run of POP!, underway at Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven, CT, through December 19, has been very well received and was glowingly reviewed in both the Boston Globe and New York Times. It isn’t everyday that an art-themed musical emerges, so I was both excited and apprehensive about seeing it. Warhol is such an iconic figure in the history of art, and I was unsure that a musical could really capture this infamous and mysterious person.

And that is exactly what the musical sets out to do. Instead of focusing on his art, POP! hones in on Warhol’s relationships with key people in his life, like right-hand man Gerard Malanga or transsexual muse Candy Darling. The six figures that flow in and out of the scenes define Warhol more concretely than he ever did, illuminating not only the mind behind the art, but also the mysterious person that they, as well as the art world, were captivated with. They are more than happy to tell volumes about the difficult genius–but Andy speaks his lines in enigmatic tones and hides behind his sunglasses, offering only an empty paper bag to solve any and every problem. He plays the role of the voyeur, much as he did in life. Continue reading Who Shot Andy Warhol? (The Musical)

Art and Fashion

It makes sense that the worlds of high fashion and art often collide, and lately I’ve come across quite a few crossovers.  Below, a few of the curious collaborations and inspirations I’ve come across recently.

(Left to right) Warhol-inspired perfume; Delftware boot vase; Lady Gaga in Vogue, December '09.(Left to right) Warhol-inspired perfume; Delftware boot vase; Lady Gaga in Vogue, December ’09.

  • For $220, you can smell like Andy Warhol’s Money series with Bond No. 9 New York — Andy Warhol perfume. Apparently, the prints smell spicy and citrusy. Who knew?
  • Here’s a really unusual gift idea from ELLE’s December 2009 issue… Delftware-inspired Wellington rain boots — that aren’t rain boots at all, but in fact porcelain vases.
  • Award for most simultaneously awesome and bizarre fashion/art crossover yet: Lady Gaga’s feature in Vogue’s December 2009 issue, where she poses as the witch in Grace Coddington’s interpretation of Hansel and Gretel.  In her feature, Lady Gaga describes her performance for the LA Museum of Contemporary Art gala, at which she played a piano made by Damien Hirst. Here’s hoping her next music video not only features the craziest of runway fashion, but some contemporary art too–might I suggest a dance segment alongside one of Jeff Koon’s metallic balloon dogs?

Have I missed any happenings between art & fashion? Let me know in the comments!

Big Questions for the Met’s Thomas Campbell…and you

Last night the Colbert Report hosted Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell to ask him some probing questions about the elitist art world that are on every “Blue Collar Joe Six-Pack”‘s mind. Did you catch the segment? If not, click over to Comedy Central and stream that episode immediately (Campbell starts at about 16 minutes in).

It might be satire, but Colbert asks the big questions that everyone should be asking of museums: What is the point of art?  Is art only good if an art critic says it’s good?  Can “good” art exist without an audience? Who decides how much art is worth? Who decides what goes in a museum?  Colbert even begins by saying: “I don’t like art…and that’s mainly because I don’t get art.” So I ask a further question: How can museums help visitors feel more comfortable around the art — how can we make them feel like they “get it”? (Further, how can we help them feel comfortable with the fact that it’s OK to not “get it” — after all, isn’t that why art is studied: because we never feel like we’ve completely plumbed the interpretations of a work of art?) Continue reading Big Questions for the Met’s Thomas Campbell…and you