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R: Museums Are No Place for Art

The art museum has become a standard feature of cities worldwide. Never before have so many people been able to experience, in person, so many beautiful works of art, coming from all periods in history and all populated corners of the globe.

And yet, there seems to be something painfully lacking in museums. They seem, in many ways, artificial. Many, if not most, of the works on display at museums were not at all intended for them—they were painted for royal palaces, sculpted for city squares, and carved for sacred rituals. They fit neatly into their cultures of origin—single puzzle pieces in the complex assortments of customs, beliefs, and physical artifacts that have defined societies of the past. Museums—where dozens of unrelated works might be displayed side-by-side in a single room—largely fail to convey these origins.

There is another danger: as more and more art is relegated to museums, it disappears from the public sphere. Elaborate façades, grand temples, ornate fountains—even flower gardens—are endangered in many places, or have already disappeared. After all, if art belongs in museums, then why should cities be anything but purely functional?

But perhaps we've been uncharitable to museums. Many museums give new life to art, preserving antique artifacts that might otherwise remain buried and neglected, giving an audience to paintings that might otherwise be held in exclusive private collections, and providing new insights into works that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Join us this WednesdayOctober 29th at 7:30 pm in the Calhoun Parlor as we discuss the proper home (and role) of art in society. All are welcome!

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