The Museum is important ** Le Musée est important


In 1966, Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) the immense French sociologist of, among other subjects, the functioning of class in our societies, published a book: ‘The Love of Art: the European Art Museums and Their Public’ ( L’Amour de l’Art, les musées d’arts européens et leur public). His co-auther was Alan Darbel.




AB:AW = MD:L, 1967.  Alighiero Boetti, 1940-1994, Italian.   Hand-made intervention on silkscreen printing. Private collection on loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum for an exhibition about Arte Povera in 2018

Presumably: Alighiero Boetti: Andy Warhol = Marcel Duchamp: Leonardo da Vinci


You would have to know Andy Warhol’s silkscreen prints of Jackie Kennedy; Marcel Duchamp’s evisceration of  a great work of art by adding a mustachio and transforming it into a special kind of ‘readymade’ which he has altered. You would have to be all in with the readymades and know the philosophy of Arte Povera.

  And when you have deciphered all this, so what?


What the hell is this?  What are all these letters? a woman asked.  Hellish, I said. Pretentious, silly, hellish.  Arte Povera, did they say?  Very povera.


In this work, the authors analyze how museums are among the enforcers of class distinctions. 

You are either in the know or you are not. 

Whether you are is a function of the class into which you were born or into which you are assimilated.




Detail as  noted above


That class re-inforces its separateness and special status by maintaining the fiction that the appreciation of art is innate. 

It is, of course, not innate but acquired.

Artists have long been the keepers of this boundary. It pays them.


And sometimes – but not always – it seems to me that the entire endeavour of conceptual art is nothing more than the latest re-inforcement of these same class boundaries.




Detail as noted above


The musuem, Pierre Bourdieu said, is important for those who go there because it permits them to distinguish themselves from those who don’t. 

La musée est important pour ceux qui y vont dans la mesure où il leur permet de se distinguer de ceux qui n’y vont pas. 


To the degree that museums are the keepers of the ways in which our species has lived from time immemorial, and the generator of ideas about and hope for the ways in which we can live, it follows  that the way museums do not give access and access to understanding to the majority of the population amounts to a crime.  

And this is before we get to the sticker-shock price of entry into American museums. 


Just saying.










7 thoughts on “The Museum is important ** Le Musée est important

  1. Interesting things to think about. I’ve often felt that art isn’t always accessible, whether academic paintings of the 19th century or abstract art of the 20th. To be fair, art often seeks to challenge us in some way. Whether that challenge is worth the effort is often the question.

    1. I don’t disagree with you as to whether the effort is always worth it. But it drives me clear mad that huge numbers of people don’t get the opportunity to decide for themselves whether it is worth it either because they are intimidated by the whole adventure or they are priced out. Clear mad!

      1. I understand! Museums have always been intimidating, and now they’re expensive to boot. The last time I went to the MFA in Boston, three or four years ago, I was shocked to learn I’d have to pay $25 to enter. That will make me think twice about going back, which is a shame.

  2. Un de mes amis est en train de créer une association pour distribuer des vivres qu’il récupère dans les supermarchés mais aussi pour emmener les jeunes dans les musés de la ville où l’entrée est gratuite chaque premier dimanche du mois.

    1. Wonderful, Louis. Good for him. Est-ce qu’il va accompagner ces jeunes? (Emmener: ca veut dire take with or send?!)

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