"The museum is not part of the entertainment industry
," he says firmly when I ask about the transition, in the past few decades, of public art galleries from places of quiet contemplation into hives of noisy activity. "It's a place for education, to have a memorable experience of art. I don't think one needs to abandon the idea that the museum is a little bit like a temple, or a sanctuary. This doesn't mean that it has to be distant from society, or the public. One of our roles is to convince the public that they need to have this experience - but not at any price.
Miguel Zugaza, director of the Prado. Full interview here
- probably paywalled so be warned. On the other hand, the Prado charges for admission and doesn't turn people away, and churches and other temples and sanctuaries themselves have to cater for quiet contemplation without excluding or discouraging the crowds of children. What has been most interesting to me about this thread (apart of course from virtuoso displays of misanthropic nostalgia by the usual suspects) are the suggestions for how to manage this balance - public education, expert docents, extra charges for photography, timed entrance, bans or restrictions on flash photography, all the way to population control. I think we can be confident that Senor Zugaza is thinking about (some of) these and other approaches. For my part, I always check with museums about the best times to visit blockbusters (as a retiree I have that luxury), I carry binoculars so I can do some contemplating from a distance, and I have a well-honed technique for moving gently through the crowd towards the painting. And when I can't see the art, I enjoy, as best I can, watching the people, based on the belief that grumpy frustration is a mood best avoided and that no-one can avoid for me.