The Rodin Exhibit

Art museums used to be free. I used to go to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts all the time. For a while I worked around the corner so I’d spend a couple of lunch breaks a week there. Now they cost money to get into, which is a crime. We own the damn art but we don’t get to see it. Kids might get dragged in there once in their lifetimes but otherwise would they ever just go? Never. So what’s the point?

I developed a great appreciation for art in the Montreal museum which kept me from becoming a gangster or crystal meth addict. In particular there was a Jean-Paul Riopelle painting which taught me to heed the deeper voices and become, if not exactly a productive member of society, at least a harmless one. The Borduas exhibit inspired me to start a jazz society.

Since the Vancouver gallery started charging admission I’ve been there six times at most. On Thursday nights. Thursday nights are by donation. But even that’s gotten worse. You used to be able to just walk in and, if you felt like donating a few bucks, you threw it in a bowl. Now they make you get in line and confess publicly that you’re not donating a dime. They even ask you to repeat it louder so everyone behind you can hear. “So you’re donating nothing?” At least that’s what they did to me.

When I was fifteen I saw The Thinker at the Metropolitan in New York. There was a sign saying “Do Not Touch” but I had to touch it. The Thinker! C’mon, I had to touch it. It’s the history of Western Culture for god’s sake. I cased the statue for about twenty minutes, walking back and forth and eyeballing the people around me and the guards. It’s like the time I stole candy bars from Belman’s. Finally I thought I was safe and reached out and with the tiniest part of the tippiest tip of my finger I touched it and this big tough New York City museum guard came at me with his hand on his holster telling me to get back, get back! The fucking thing’s bronze for christ’s sake!

Years later I learned it wasn’t even the original Thinker. There are Thinkers all over the damn place. Big deal!

So I went to the Vancouver Art gallery for the first time in twelve years to see the Rodin exhibit. Years ago my sister-in-law had this huge coffee-table Rodin book and when I stayed there for a week I pored over that thing front to back and back to front utterly amazed by the photographs of Rodin’s life’s work. By comparison the show was lame, I’m sorry to say. Most of the stuff was small, for one thing. It turns out Rodin produced tons of copies of everything in many sizes including small. He was the Ron Popeil of sculptors. And context . . . what about context? Even the Met had context, not puny statues in a white room with hot spots reflecting off everything making you crazy. And their Thinker was bigger. The bigger the Thinker the bigger the Thoughts. That should be Art’s motto.

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