On Culture
Comments 7

43 things I have learnt while working in an art museum.

1. When it’s raining it’s generally busier.

2. Video is the new black.

3. More and more shows are for entertainment.

4. Curators tend to pack exhibitions with as many artists as they can, more is more apparently and I think this is a bad idea. 

5. I see a lot of couples, it seems to be the perfect place for a date, perhaps I will go on one too, but I won’t cause I work there.

6. Sometimes the architecture is more impressive than the art according to visitors.

6. People don’t like paying for art exhibitions but it’s the norm in many places.

7. Kids can say the best things about art; we forget to take art at face value sometimes.

8. People hit on the gallery assistants all the time, remember we are paid to be friendly, emotional labor is no easy feat.

9. People generally look at the wall text first; for once it would be nice to have none at all. They are so prosaic, but for good reason. I think that’s what titles are for and that’s enough.

10. I left my book on the ground once, someone thought it was art and said “interesting,” it was a philosophy book and I guess it did kind of relate to the show.

11. People are so fashionable at the museum sometimes, so much inspiration.

12. The gallery is a good place to kill time, according to a lot of visitors.

13. Once I worked out the ratio of men artists to women artists, it was roughly 80% men and 20% women…

14. Contemporary art is still a hard pill to swallow for many People.

15. Underneath the museum I was immediately reminded of a sterile hospital, this is no coincidence.

16. Sometimes I like certain artworks with more time spent with it and sometimes I like it less.

17. The best work is perhaps that which you keep thinking about.

18. There’s this one person who regularly returns to visit one painting, sometimes staring at it for hours on end, I have no idea what he sees in the work, I fantasize about what he might, one day maybe I will ask him, but I’m not sure if I want to.

19. You really do get all types of people at the museum, from all ages and identities, perhaps that’s the most beautiful aspect of an art museum.

20. The gift shop books are overpriced.

21. There’s always a little rush of people before closing time!

23. The first people in the museum are the most eager.

24. Obviously kids love to touch art, even more so when we tell them they’re not allowed.

25. I forget that for a lot of people it’s their first time in an art museum.

26. People take a lot of selfies with art. I regularly wonder what happens to most of those photos, I feel like this is an untapped resource for the museum.

27. No bags, food, drink and selfie sticks are allowed in the museum.

28. The director of the gallery hasn’t talked to me yet.

29. The guides for the tours are volunteers, sometimes there’s one person on the tour all the way up to thirty plus, thus the nature of the tour changes accordingly. 

30. I get asked a lot of technical questions about how specific art works are made, more so than the ideas or meanings behind a work. I blame modernism.

31. There are so many different departments and jobs I have never knew existed, forming a tree like structure, it would be nice if it were rhizomatic.

32. So much invisible labor for the production of the visible.

33. There is an ongoing tension between artists, curators and the technicians, a productive tension nonetheless.

34. Sometimes there are moments of pure curatorial beauty, where works when placed from another form an extended narrative, overlaid upon its intended meaning. 

35. I was once retorted for calling the museum a Church, thinking back now I think they are more like clubhouses.

36. A lot of the gallery assistants are over qualified.

37. Where the collections is stored could be an exhibition in its own right, the haphazard placement of objects determined by a productive use of space, also the paintings look so effective on the metal sliding racks.

38. A museum by definition is a building that stores and exhibits artistic and historical objects; although this definition could be broadened encapsulate the production of experiences and events.

39. An art museum is usually didactic in how they critique and display art

40. Wall texts are hung with blue tack.

41. Some people confuse signs with artworks; I still can’t tell if they’re joking.

42. “In dealing with the artworks there is the perspective of the museum visitor—but there is also the perspective of the cleaning lady who cleans the museum space as she would clean any other space. The technology of conservation, restoration, and exhibition are profane technologies—even if they produce objects of aesthetic contemplation. There is a profane life inside the museum—and it is precisely this profane life and profane practice that allow the museum items to function as aesthetic objects.” (1) I now agree with Boris Groys on this one.

43. The art museum is increasingly becoming a type of civic centre, including events and experiences that don’t necessarily relate to art at all, an institution opening its doors to that which perhaps falls outside of the cultural radar.

Taylor Wagstaff

  1. Groys, B. (2016). The truth of art. E-flux. Retrieved from; http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-truth-of-art/


  1. Oh please. You are making a lot of generalizations and it sounds like you have never worked in an art museum or museum of any type.

    • johndonaldson661623863 says

      That’s pretty harsh. What’s happening in your world that would make you take the time to tap out those keys?

  2. Svala says

    I find this very interesting. A good analyze and entertaining writing as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and observations 🙂

  3. ABAB says

    Thanks for this text! its straightforwardness and its simplicity makes it witty and fun to read

  4. marinika babanazarova says

    I can agree with many observations, but not with all of them. It depends on many other factors….

  5. I can definitely recognise a great deal of these observations, some stuff you don’t really think about til someone else ( you) writes it down, sounds like an American perspective though, yes? Even so working in museums and galleries in the UK has pretty much the same comparisons.

  6. Peter Dornauf says

    On the nail. Loved especially number two: video the new black. So true and so tiresome. Just witness the latest Walters Prize lineup.

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