Friday, July 6, 2018

'Museum Hack' tour reveals Art Institute many miss

Ali Kemp, Museum Hack guide
     "Make no mistake, this is pornography," said Ali Kemp, pausing Monday in front of Titian's painting "Danae and the Shower of Gold" at The Art Institute of Chicago. "If you were a rich dude in renaissance Italy, and you wanted porn, you just commissioned someone to paint your own. But if you wanted people not to know what it was, you'd come up with some vaguely mythological story that could somehow involve a naked lady and that's what you'd portray."
     She was — the woman in the painting, not Kemp — one of thousands of naked ladies sprawled on chaises I've tramped past in a lifetime of vigorous museum going. But I can't remember ever pausing to look closely and think about what I was seeing, such as the dog in the corner of the painting.
     "Now there's this little dog, which seems innocent enough," she said. "But in renaissance Italy, nothing is as it seems, and that dog symbolizes that she is ... loose, basically."
     I knew there is an Art Institute — I've been a member for years. And I knew there are tours — groups of foreigners trekking after someone holding a small flag. But it never occurred to me that there are also organized gonzo tours, not until Museum Hack invited me to tag along and I thought, "Why not?"
     "We lead sassy and subversive tours at The Art Institute," explained Cody Nailor, a publicist for the tours. "These aren’t your grandma’s tours."
     Indeed not. Museum Hack offers "Drag Tours"— art tours led by cross-dressing men —"Badass Bitches" tours, focusing on feminism and the one I was on, the "Un-Highlights Tour." In addition to Chicago, it operates in New York, San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles.
     The Art Institute allows this?
     "We do allow Museum Hack and other various groups to conduct their programs at the museum so long as they follow our security and visitor protocols," said Anna E.. Miller, a museum public affairs coordinator.

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  1. The nude woman in the painting sure has tiny feet & almost withered lower legs.

  2. Not the finest of Titian's voluptuous ladies: that would probably be the Venus of Urbino, who is also accompanied by a little dog. The limbs are indeed poorly proportioned.

    One wonders if the model is the one who became the subject of a famous poetic dalliance.

    "When Titian was mixing rose madder,

    HIs model was up on a ladder.

    He thought her position suggested coition,

    So he climbed up the ladder and had 'er."


  3. This visitor to Chicago could find worse ways to spend his $59, if he has to endure inane remarks about Taylor Swift and Tinder dates. I do realize that I'm old and that she is fairly young, but those comments still annoyed me and rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it's just the tour guide, and not the tour itself, as some of the other ones do sound fascinating and worthwhile. Or maybe it's just me. Apologies in advance.

  4. Oops...make that better ways, not worse. My mistake. Maybe I should forgive her, though. At thirty, she's young enough to be my grand-daughter, and her three kids could be my great-grandchildren.

  5. I've noticed many portraits of kept women by the wealthy/royalty from centuries ago that featured ladies in dishabille include symbolism like the above. Could the reduced size of the legs and feet reflect her mostly supine lifestyle?

    I love the Art Institute; my daughter (an art major) and I visit a couple times a year. The price of admission, train tickets and cab fare come to little less than $100, well worth the experience.


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