Goosebumps from Speed Bumps
What’s the best way to experience art?
In an interview with Joel Rose for a December 23, 2003, NPR story, “Funding Debated for Barnes Art Collection” John Neff, then at Florida’s Naples Museum of Art, placed great value on “deep looking.” It was, he suggested, falling by the wayside. “Deep looking is something that is pretty hard to do when you have a blockbuster atmosphere.”
This was one of those ideas that lingers, even years later.
In a new story on the recent Eakins churn, Rose, who is the WHYY FM Arts Reporter, interviewed Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ Herbert Riband, who praised The Gross Clinic in an effort to justify the sale of The Cello Player. The former gave him goosebumps; the latter failed to.
More and more, we notice the impact of this inclination. Context and meaning lose traction as greater value is placed on immediate reactions. (Museum folks used to call this “wall power.” But that was tongue-in-cheek.) In our version of a wall-power world, art and artifacts that give goosebumps are placed around town like so many speed bumps. The intended result? More tourism; more heads on beds.
But there are other, unintended results. And sooner or later, we predict, the scholars, curators and educators who’ve spent careers as proponents of “deep looking” will be compelled to cry out.
Or will they? Could the goosebumps-from-speed-bumps crowd chill their voice and kill their advocacy for”deep looking?”