Art a GoGoArt Over Easy


Say What?
A Review of "Overheard at the Museum" by Judith Henry

by Kathleen Lang


Has this ever happened to you? You enter a crowded museum gallery with a friend and see a painting that is so bizarre you want to loudly declare to all within earshot: "What is THAT supposed to mean?"

Most museum visitors are never this bold. If an opinion is expressed, we tend to whisper our admiration, criticism, or bewilderment to our companions in a hushed voice, as if these comments are interrupting a solemn church service.

Why is this so? Museums are not churches; do we feel that expressing our opinion will interfere with others who are involved in some sort of "artistic communion" with a work of art?

I don't think the need to respect other visitors' experience is why people tend to whisper in museums (just recall your last movie-going experience). I believe the real reason they whisper is because they don't want their comments to be overheard by others. Most of us can feel very intimidated standing in front of a confusing work of art and when we voice our opinion we will whisper to avoid being overheard by others, who surely must know more than us. Right? Wrong!

What would happen if you moved around a museum or art gallery and began to eavesdrop on the conversation of others; what would you hear? Would everyone else be any more enlightened than you? Hardly, as author Judith Henry cleverly reveals in her new book, "Overheard at the Museum."

This very small, 80-page book is composed of large, colorful quotes superimposed over blurry photographs taken at a museum. That's it-it's an especially quick read. This extremely simple format has many applications to eavesdropping at other public settings. I only wish I thought of the idea first!

Henry's book contains museum visitors' comments that range from the commonplace, "I wish someone could explain this to me," to the bane of every artist's efforts, "I really love this painting but it has way too much green in it."

There are however, some revealing remarks that demonstrate the delicious rewards of listening to the conversations of others: "Being crazy…that's the privilege of being an artist" or "Self-portrait? Good grief…is that what he looked like?" And then there is my personal favorite: "Untitled, Untitled, Untitled! Couldn't someone with so much imagination think of a title?"

Now, some might feel that participating in this sort of activity is mean-spirited and characterizes the snobbery that is often associated with attending a museum exhibition. But admit it-we've all engaged in eavesdropping at one time or another. And besides, the fact is that each of us has probably been overheard making similar comments. It seems no one is immune from voicing their opinion about the art they see at a museum or gallery. After all, art exists to be looked at, examined, and judged by you, the viewer.

I don't care who you are or how much you know about art-after a long day at a museum, most would be overheard to say: "I've seen enough art for today."


Overheard at the Museum
by Judith Henry
Our Price: $10.36


Reviews -- Features -- News -- Events -- Store
Art Links
-- About -- Home

© 2001 Art a GoGo All Rights Reserved
Subscribe to Art a GoGo Art a GoGo Home News & Events About Art a GoGo Art Links The Buzz On Art Art A GoGo Interview Reviews & Commentary Home About Art Links Store Events News Features Reviews