Standing behind the 12 foot tall oversized flywheel powered by a motorcycle—and feeling the wind pass by my face, along with a sense of danger (what if that thing fell?)—are unusual sensations at a museum. But I was seeing the appropriately named Chris Burden show, “Extreme Measure,” at the New Museum, a short stroll from my apartment.
I liked the show, pondered a few of the pieces, and left to go home and make dinner. Total time spent looking at art: 28 minutes.
I prefer to visit museums for short stints, if possible. Going to Paris for three days and leaving the Louvre after thirty minutes is idiotic, granted. But if possible, seeing one show at a time or several favorite pieces over a limited occasion is preferable. Remember: the Met is always pay-what-you-wish; Thursday nights at New Museum and Friday nights are pay-what-you-wish at MoMA and the Guggenheim; the Whitney is free Friday nights. I don’t know if there is a “brief watch” movement in the artworld, or if there should be one, but seeing art in small doses is preferable for a few reasons.
Leave Feeling Satisfied, Wanting More
Exiting a museum should not make you feel like you’ve survived running a daunting gauntlet: “Yes, I made it through all five floors!” There should be spring left in your step after seeing art, a feeling of satisfaction and room left for reflection. Seeing work for two or three hours is overwhelming, and makes it impossible to focus on anything but the “big, shinny objects.” I like to go back a second or even third time to see shows using this method because I always experience something new or can focus on a different piece.
Easier to Ponder, Appreciate
Bite-sized museum visits, like seeing “The Big Wheel,” by Chris Burden at the New Museum and seeing a handful of other pieces only, makes it much easier to think about the work. Someone spent a lot of time making a piece, so I want to allow time to pause, ponder. “Drive-by” art viewing is like switching the television remote every ten seconds (if you still have a TV, that is).
Art is More Integrated into Life, Not Precious
Most important, I think, is the notion that art is not a once-a-year (or decade) event. Rather, its something that you pop into for a little bit and stroll through. This makes it more integrated into daily life and not an all-exalted occurrence. Experiencing art in brief but more frequent doses, such as every other week, just makes life better.
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