It’s normally the first thing on my agenda when visiting a new city: take a trip to the best modern art gallery in town and spend a few hours wandering around. But I’m getting increasingly jaded, and here’s why.
This describes the modern art gallery I’ve most recently visited:
- It has a cool, unusually constructed building with lots of white walls and wooden floors
- It has a pleasant café, slightly over-priced, with an incomprehensible menu
- The clientele of the museum are young-ish, in their twenties, thirties and forties, with few children but plenty of babies in prams
- Visitors are almost all white, middle class
- There are plenty of exhibits from Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Damien Hirst and Joseph Beuys
- There are one or two exhibits that are rather shocking and draw rather strange looks from the visitors
So which modern art gallery is it then? Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin? Tate Modern in London? MOMA in New York? Moderna Museet in Stockholm? Or all of those? Actually my description refers to the Brandhorst Museum in München, but you get the idea. Maybe I need to think of different types of gallery to visit when I’m next in a new city…
I recommend passing by the modern art and instead paying a visit to the local folkloric museums. There you will find a wide range of strange and entertaining exhibits, from large collections of miniature porcelain nuns to gloomy recreations of ordinary dwellings to collections of inexplicable farm equipment (or torture devices, sometimes its hard to tell the difference). I can guarantee there’ll be no butternut squash soup with pesto and foccacia on sale at €6.50, no babies in strollers and no white middle class visitors, mostly because you’ll be the only visitor. Enjoy!
I’ve never “got” Beuys in particular. His art seems fraudulent to me. But anyway, not the point.
You’re right – it’s as though there’s a monotone mindset in modern art, in which every city gallery looks at every other one and falls in line with conventional thinking. Art and the public do indeed deserve better than that.