Thursday, May 16, 2019

Wherever Rembrandt went, there he was

     The informational cards in museums—the preferred term is "wall labels"—are one of the few forms of writing even less respected than daily journalism. They are anonymous, typically. There are no awards, that I know of. Nobody collects them, and they have no life beyond the length of the exhibit they are prepared for, unless they linger, obscure and unread, in a book version of the show.
      So I want to pause, and highlight a particularly noteworthy label at the current Rembrandt Portraits show at The Art Institute, running now until June 3. 
      It accompanies a self-portrait of the great Dutch artist, and begins: "Rembrandt was his own favorite model—and he was always conveniently available for study." 
     Ignoring the "and"—superfluous—I want to focus on "conveniently." There is a modest parcel of whimsey packed into that word. A slight joke: He was always around. Wherever Rembrandt went, there he was.
     I thought of plunging into the Art Institute PR department and trying to find the identity of the writer. But Wednesday was such a nice day—I shouldn't have been in the museum at all, but just popped in to wait before lunch, spending only, oh, 45 minutes before exiting into Millennium Park to savor the advent—finally, finally, finally—of decent spring weather.
    The Rembrandt Portraits show, by the way, contributed to the brevity of my visit. It consists of the four portraits shown above, two from The Art Institute's collection, two visiting from California. That's it. I understand cultural institutions must do what they must do to draw in the groundlings. But really, giving this gathering a formal name and presenting itself as a cohesive exhibition, well, it strikes me as a minor species of fraud. Forgivable, perhaps, if it puts eyeballs on art. But something beneath a mighty enterprise such as The Art Institute. Or so is my opinion, but I am open to the possibility that I might be mistaken. 


  1. highlight a particularly I am not a grammarian but shouldn't it be particular

    1. Either that or there's an adjective missing.

    2. Sanford & Coey: No. "Particularly" modifies "noteworthy," and thus is 100% grammatically correct.

      Unknown: if consumers of art don't pay the freight, then taxpayers will have to or places such as The Art Institute will disappear.

      Full disclosure: studied at The Art Institute when I was 8 years old or so in the late 40s, when museums were "free," i.e. paid for by taxpayers (or perhaps rich patrons). But I didn't pursue a career in art at least partly because I detested the smells associated with creating it.


    3. John -- my grandmother on my father's side studied at the Art Institute, starting sometime in the 20s. It's what brought her to Chicago. She was a Norwegian farm girl from Iowa. She met a nice Sicilian Chicago boy named Tony, married him, and started a family. Anyone looking to place blame for my existence could probably start with the Art Institute.

    4. Tate: The Met and MOMA in New York manage to get by without charging extra once you've already paid to get inside. I have no objection to paying the freight, but I don't like having to pay it twice.

  2. Did they have my favorite Rembrandt self-portrait? He did it towards the end of his life, when everything had gone to hell - he'd lost all his money, his wife left him, his kids had turned on him,etc. He stares out from the canvas with a wild, haunted look, like, "How the f--- did this happen?"

    As for the Art Institute don't get me started. I hate how they charge extra to get into "special exhibits." if they were any more brazen about gouging you they would hold you upside down by the ankles and shake the money out of your pockets -- artistically, of course.

    1. Unknown -- Become a member. We never pay for special exhibits.

    2. No, you just pay to become a member.

      (Incidentally, I am "Unknown." For some reason my phone won't let me sign in as Bitter Scribe.)

    3. Yes, and reap the benefits.
      We go often enough that it's cheaper being a member than not being a member.

    4. Scribe,
      When using your cell phone, first go to Google, then type in “everygoddamnday” in search box. It will bring you to the blog and enable you to comment with your Google name.


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