Friday, May 17, 2019

History of paying for museums

Monet, Arrival of the Normandy Train (image from AGO)
In Toronto the Art Gallery of Ontario recently generated substantial buzz with its announcement of free admission for all visitors 25 and under and a $35 one-year pass for all others (compared to a basic single price of $19.50, and annual memberships over $100).

I salute this project. It will make the AGO, already a lively place, livelier this coming year, and I hope it proves financially feasible serious over the year's test. It also reminded me of all the countries where major public galleries -- and even more, museums and historic sites -- are FREE FREE FREE. I was on about this ten years ago, and I experienced it again recently at the wonderful National Archaeological Museum in Dublin. I thought there about how expensive we in Canada make a family visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Museum of Civilisation, or Parks Canada's historic sites.

Speaking of the AGO, we went to see its "Impressionism in the Age of Industry" exhibit last month (it's over now).  Liked the paintings, and was, well, intrigued by the captions. It has been the AGO habit in recent years to strive to place all its exhibits in historical context, as if the artists it shows were all socio-cultural documentary artists. Well, this whole exhibit was about the age of industry, so the commentary made sense. Indeed this historical context stuff ought to appeal to me; it's the kind of interpretation I would try to do myself, probably.

But every time I read about how Monet or Caillebotte were demonstrating their awareness of class difference, and gender oppression, and the transformative power of capitalism, I found myself thinking, okay, but can't you say anything about how they put paint on canvas, or the artistic traditions they were adapting or rejecting?

Follow @CmedMoore