Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert

I used this graphic novel by Marc-Antoine Mathieu as a quick entry for the Art History Reading Challenge. Yes, I do plan to actually read an adult fiction or nonfiction book for this challenge. But just haven't gotten there yet. :-)

I enjoyed the three other graphic novels I've read in the last year so I thought this would be a fun addition to my reading for this challenge. The basic storyline follows Monsieur Volumer, an expert in his field of indexing, cataloging, and evaluating museum collections as he travels through the Museum. He enters the Museum and begins to go through its holdings, making his way through each and every storage area, traveling deeper and deeper into the depths of the museum. This very short book (at 60 pages) is full of fun and sarcastic humor with regard to museums and the art world. For example, the first few pages discuss how the lower levels of a museum all look the same and you can get lost in the similar hallways, but that you eventually "end up getting used to it all." (page 8). Anyone who has ever worked in the basement of a standard museum will chuckle at this as yes, most museums have limestone, solid foundations, built to withstand all. And most are all painted exactly the same and seem to be a maze of hallways with access doors. Later in the book, fun is poked at "the archives service" or the mountains and mountains of paperwork found in a museum. And so it goes on from there.

The philosophy of art is also discussed throughout the book with regard to paintings and what truly is art. Are reproductions of art art within themselves? or just the original masterpiece? There is one section where a gentlemen is obviously referencing the Mona Lisa without really saying it. He discusses how the invention of the camera obscura really changed the way art was viewed. He said there were many copies of different paintings and the staff would change them out. He used the example of one painting of a woman in which they had many copies each with a different facial expression. He would change them out in the gallery periodically and people would be curious about her change of expression, never knowing that the painting had actually been changed. But someone took a photo of the painting where she is smiling slightly, and it ended up in an art book. He's had to leave that one up ever since. He claims it's a shame that no one will ever see the other paintings again. Obviously this has never happened, and its meant to be funny. I really got a kick out of how creative Mathieu was in getting his points across about the irony of art and the museum world.

Now, all that being said, the book was a bit jumpy, moving quickly from topic to topic, never expanding long on anything. And I'm not sure someone without a museum or art background would really enjoy this book at all. I give it four stars because I loved how accurate he was with his museum references, but I think this would be a 2.5 or a 3 out of five stars for someone without this kind of background. But then again, I'm not sure why someone would be drawn to a book like this if they weren't interested in art and museums. So that shouldn't really be a problem. :-)

1 comment:

She Became A Butterfly said...

please join the Community Virtual Book Sale & Giveaway going on May 4 - 15 with a Twitter party May 8th!

Here is the info to join:
http://www.shebecameabutterfly.net/?p=3123

Pass it on to your other book-lover friends!