A day or two after I wrote my last blog post about 40,000-year-old evidence of art as a basic human instinct, I read a wonderful article in the New York Times on pretty much the same subject.
The reporter, Anand Giridharadas, saw a young woman sitting in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum. It was a hot day, it was a cool lobby. The article described how 16-year-old Chanel Baldwin, sat out the doggiest days of summer in the cool air of the lobby, though venturing no further because of the “suggested $8” price of admission. But on the free side of that lobby was a painting, “Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps,” by Kehinde Wiley. And day after day Chanel looked at that painting, looked more deeply, perhaps, than most of the museum-goers inside who graze past one work after another. She noticed things about the painting, thought about it, formed an opinion. In short, she responded to the art.
And when Giridharadas pointed Chanel to the part of the admission sign that said “suggested” next to the $8, she went inside and looked some more.
The article had several important points to make, about exclusion, perceived and real; about the cost of keeping art and the public separated from each other. Not to mention--in this week that marks the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s march on Washington--about white privilege and who feels entitled to what in the public arena.
Yes, the big draw for Chanel might have been the air conditioning. But, from the description of her careful attention and response to the works in front of her, it sounds as if it was the art.