What’s in an Art Museum?


It occurred to me today, after reading a blog on art museums ( found here- http://humoringthegoddess.com/2014/04/23/art-thou-curious/ ) there is a certain stigma art museums have a hard time breaking.
Lucky for me, being an artist AND living in Seattle, I know this is totally false. I have to compliment the Seattle Art Museum and Bellevue Arts Museum because they make it so clearly obvious that they aren’t filled with just stuffy artifacts that I had nearly forgotten the stigma exists! Notice the photo above, date night at SAM, they had a live band behind us and they use the permanent exhibit above as a chandelier type effect. Screams contemporary! 🙂
Anyways, I wanted to make this post to kind of give you the run down of what you are missing if you don’t frequent Art Museums.
First, the difference between a gallery and a museum. A gallery represents specific artists and types of artwork generally showcasing their work. They work with the artist to sell and show the artists work. One of the things many galleries do is help to get their artists shown in museums. So people can view the artwork and artists in places where their gallery is not. Artists traditionally work with one gallery. You don’t buy artwork at museums, you buy artwork from galleries. (Or directly from artists if they don’t work with a gallery)
This brings me to the most exciting thing in your local art museum, in my opinion. 🙂 The changing contemporary exhibitions.
Generally if you hear the word contemporary we are talking about an artist that is living and still producing art. Yes, there are going to be some fads you might not like and you might not get, but there is A LoT of really good art still being produced and traveling around to Art Museums today. And a museum exhibit is a chance for you to experience that in person! Even if you don’t live in a place where the local galleries are super exciting. Although of course I’d encourage frequenting all local art venues. 🙂
Here’s an example at BAM — Kathy Venter: Life
She’s a Canadian contemporary artist. Pretty incredible ceramicist, she uses traditional methods of pinching and coiling, no molds… Wow! I would have never heard of her or seen this incredible work, except that it traveled to my local museum. Now I can research her, follow her, maybe find out about the gallery that represents her, find pieces that I can collect by her. Where else can I see her!! She’s contemporary and fascinating! Thank you Bellevue Arts Museum!
So the point is, your museum is getting a lot of stuff “traveling through.” It’s a place for you to get culture from all over the world! Even if you don’t get to ever buy or collect great art, here you can see it, from everywhere. Not only does it get the contemporary stuff it will also get exhibitions composed of Masters. For example, the Miro exhibit we visited at SAM that night (above) isn’t owned by the museum, it was traveling through. If Seattleites want to get a peek at the master’s work in person, the museum doesn’t have it in their permanent collection, the Seattleite visits during the time of that exhibition.
It’s exciting for a museum to get a show like this! All the information and all the pieces. The pieces in a show like this come together to travel for a certain period of time, on loan, from many places like private collector’s collections and other museums collections.
And this is the other thing your museum has. Its permanent collection that it has acquired. Which is generally awesome in its own right. There are very few private collections that can compare to a museums collection, right? And no other museum has the same collection yours does, because art is unique. So keep that in mind when you visit and support your museum. Their permanent collection, is like you and your cities collection, nobody else gets to go view that original work anywhere else in the world.
So take it in! It’s unique and your moment in front of it is too! 🙂 Soak it up.


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About ndieckman

Artist. Writer. Yoga Teacher. Wife, and Mom of 3.

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