Sunday, November 29, 2009


I have been to two, count'em, two museums (musea?) in two days.

At the Rubin in Manhattan, I saw CG Jung's Red Book,with lots of facsimiles and such. And lots of Jungian types holding forth. For Jungians, the recently revealed and published Red Book is a combo of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Kells.

And at The Brooklyn today, I wandered through two hours of human civilization: Islamic (mostly Iranian), Egyptian, Assyrian, European (15th through 19th centuries), American. Didn't have time for the African and Asian. And I entered a special collection named after a married couple who included their middle initials! And I skipped the Feminist Art section and the one called American Identities. Pomo BS, no doubt.

Three irked notes before an appreciation.

In the Islamic section, the historical timeline referred to "the prophet Muhammad" each time he was mentioned and reported the revelation of the Quran to him by the angel Gabriel not as a claim but as a simple fact. Can you imagine them with a Christian timeline saying, "33 AD, Jesus rose from the dead"? This subtle but constant asskissing of Islam angers me.

And in the entryway, a version of Napoleon Crossing the Alps with a black guy on the horse instead of the little Corsican emperor. We are told that the artist thus "confronts and critiques" the absence of the experience of black urban culture in Western history. What narcissistic adolescent crap.

And after spending a couple of hours with some of the stunning and powerful and beautiful artifacts of a whole variety of human civilizations over the last few thousand years, I got to see some of the "contemporary" pieces. Yikes. Sort of like sanctifying a nervous breakdown.

A couple of pieces in the Egyptian section, a relief that had been (beautifully) blackened by fire and a basalt bust...both of them were old when Christ was born. And here I was, standing in front of them. I wondered about the men who carved them. What they ate for dinner. Who they loved, who loved them, who they hated. Millennia apart and, in so many ways, just like me.

Beautiful and powerful objects, these. From worlds, though, that have passed away into museums. The magical, almost godlike capacity of humans...and the inexorable eradicating power of time. I left grateful, moved and melancholy. But mostly moved at what an amazing species we are.



Leah said...

You have a very nice Asian art museum in your city. Missed a very good tour, led by me. I'll have to come back some time and not park in the civic center garage.
Also, my Iranian friend would be the first to tell you that all of that art is from Iran since Arabs aren't capable of creating anything like that.
She also would be very upset that here in America they treat Islam better than Christianity. Once she was a Muslim. Today she is an American of Iranian descent.

Anonymous said...

Re: a version of Napoleon Crossing the Alps with a black guy on the horse. Not only "adolescent crap," also bogus -- especially if this is a white painter, as I have to assume in line with previous phenomena of this sort. The disinclination of (white) painters to treat persons of colour is remedy'd not by painters who do critiques of this sort but by actually going out there and uncondescendingly treating actual black persons as art subjects in accord with the meanings and difficulties in trinsic to their lives. Portraying Napoleon as a somewhat black male doesn't achieve this, in my humble opinion.
cc. Severus, Niger, Albinus

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