Tuesday, February 2, 2010
This is Not a Kindergarten
The big blockbuster art exhibition at the Frankfurt gallery this winter was Botticelli. I wasn't going to see it, especially after going to the Uffizi in January and seeing a room full of Botticellis there. But then one of the German mothers from the kindergarten invited me and as I knew I'd get in for free with my gallery card I decided I would.
My friend was bringing along her sister and also her child - an incredibly well-behaved, perfect little three year old who always makes me doubt my parenting skills. I decided against bringing Mads as Botticelli isn't her favourite. Too decorative, not enough substance, she reckons.
It was the right decision, for the moment we walked in with V's little girl the gallery guards were on our case.
'Don't let her touch anything,' they said - like we were going to let her start rubbing her hands all over the Birth of Venus (which wasn't there anyway - it was at the Uffizi). 'Don't get too close.' 'Don't stand there.' etc etc. I started getting a little jumpy.
The worst incident was when we were standing in front of a wall of information reading the notes - there wasn't a single painting anywhere nearby at all. V noticed that there was quite a strong backlight - the whole space had been set up in this very reverential, church-like way with dim rooms and spot lights - and she started making a shadow-puppet bird on the wall to amuse her daughter. The aunt joined in, making her hand into a dog. Straight away, one of the guards rushed over and said something in German and the puppet show abruptly ended.
'What did he say?' I asked.
'He said "This is not a kindergarten. You have to be respectful",' said V.
'This is very typical of art galleries in Germany,' said the aunt. 'You are not supposed to enjoy yourself. You are supposed to take it very seriously.' I looked around and saw exactly what she meant. People looked like they were in pain - solemn, gloomy faces, clutching their gallery guides and frowning at the paintings, like somehow they weren't giving them what they'd hoped for.
When I told Thieu about it later he said 'let's go in tomorrow with Mads. That will make them appreciate the next well-behaved, quiet German child that goes in.'
Posted by mcb at 12:13 AM