The Louvre Museum in Paris - one of the world's greatest - and, right, the Uffizi in Florence.
The Louvre Museum in Paris - one of the world's greatest - and, right, the Uffizi in Florence. Chris D'Agorne

TRAVEL: Best be an artful dodger when it comes to museums

A MEDIA releasefrom the people at booking.com is urging us to get into more museums on our travels.

Well, haven't we all done as many museums as we can face?

Unless you are a museum nerd, one in each city is more than enough, don't you think?

But there is always that vague feeling of obligation to visit a museum in a new (to you) city.

It nags at you while you are living it up in cafes and drinking it up in bars. Shouldn't you be doing something cultural?

How could you possibly visit London and not put a foot inside the British Museum? Sacrilege.

What would anyone think of you if you spent a week in Paris and did not visit the Louvre? Mon dieu. As for anyone who visited Florence and did not spend hours, days even, in the Uffizi, well ... unthinkable.

And if you happen to be in Rome and did not stand in a queue for five hours to get inside the Vatican Museum, well nothing to say to you but philistine.

I, being a person with a big nagging voice inside my head, have visited all the above museums and many lesser known places.

Some museums have flown out of my memory, some have stayed. Most impressionable was the museum in Copenhagen (so memorable I can't even remember its name) for one of its exhibits.

The exhibit was inside a floor-to-ceiling glass case, a couple of models of a man and woman wading out of the ocean after a shipwreck.

You could see the remnants of the sinking ship behind them. The man had terrible injuries. A missing arm. An axe embedded in a frightful gash in his stomach.

From memory the woman had a leg missing, a bandage around her head, a pair of scissors poking out of her neck and blood dripping everywhere.

It was truly horrible. What did it mean? What metaphor did it represent? How could this be art?

I searched for the artist's statement, and there it was on a small plaque just beside the "exhibit''.

It comprised just one word, a word I cannot repeat here because this is a polite and genteel magazine, but it began with an F and ended with a D and had six letters. You fill in the gaps.

And no one could deny that one obscene word did sum up the dreadful predicament the couple found themselves in.

In London's Tate Modern, I stood before a perspex case crammed with bathroom junk (the kind we all have): used fungus tubes, old toothbrushes, a hairbrush filled with tangles of hair, an empty tampon packet. This was art at its most descriptive, according to the artist's statement.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art perplexed me, as does any museum of modern art.

I gazed in puzzled wonder at a tall wooden sculpture that had dozens of stuffed socks dangling from it. Eh?

Another exhibit comprised a room painted to resemble a rainforest with a tiny prison window near the ceiling.

Bundles of old newspapers sat on the floor. The only other item in the room was a lonely square sink with a packet of rat killer beneath it.

I was so puzzled I joined a tour group and listened to the guide giving explanations that were as confusing as the exhibits.

As we stood among tall sculptures of jumble, a roller door rumbled open behind us to reveal a ladder, bucket, a mop and some old cardboard boxes.

Everyone in the group turned to the guide for explanation, expecting to hear "this is an expression of modern neo-classic expressionism mixed with minimalist experimentation'' but instead the guide said: "This is the freight elevator.”

So let us do the museums we feel will benefit us most, stand before great masterpieces that we can understand and be thankful for artists who have come before us and those who will continue to enchant us.



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