The last week has been another wild one.
As a minister, one of the things I do (which, gratefully, is never boring) is volunteer to transport and escort valuable works of art for religious groups which may find it difficult to pay for professional art shipping. It’s one way of extending the budget of the religious organizations, which comes directly from the donations and sacrifices of the faithful.
Most often I travel with my good friend Jason Lanegan, Director of Galleries for the Visual Arts Department at Brigham Young University – a private university funded through a Christian church. This week we traveled to Los Angeles to pick up some artwork for an exhibit on the sacred landscape, and were able to do some research on curatorial display at a number of museums in the LA area. Jason is also a minister, and it was interesting to see what aspects of museums we responded to, in our capacities as both artists and ministers.
It’s rare that museums, for me, are anything other than positive places; I think it’s wonderful that the evidences of our creative capacities are cared for and displayed. However, a standard is set by the Getty institutions that I think would be wonderful for others to follow.
Other museums we visited seemed to be houses for the work or temples to the works on display. By contrast, the Getty museums felt like sacred structures built to shelter the artwork. This is a subtle distinction, but it elevated both the atmosphere of display and the presentation of the work. When a visitors come to the Getty, we approach works that are surrounded with respect and accessibility; at the Getty Villa, the antiquities are shown with a reverence for the pieces both as treasured artifacts of beloved cultures and as evidence of the faith of those who made them. Rather than buildings just to show art, the Getty museums felt like places of worship housing treasures – specifically meant for us to learn about and treasure them, too.
As humans we can’t avoid building things. When the things are beautiful, it is wonderful to be witness to the process or evidence of the creation. Yes, I performed my duties as a pastoral volunteer to safely retrieve the artwork, but I was also blessed with a wonderful experience seeing how art display should be.