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! (more…)

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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!


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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.


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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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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