Perhaps it was my longing to become a museum curator that made me come up with this question, but it's also that I've been drawn lately by a curiosity to know what people think of art museums.
There's the Getty Museum, Le Louvre, and the EMP (Experience Music Project, in Seattle Center) for instance. They exhibit various forms of art whose expressions last through time, but each museum does so in a distinct way.
With the Getty's highly sophisticated look of a modern architectural style where the smoothly-rendered walls stretch far into the sky, one's eyes will linger over the paintings and sculptures with a strong sense of aesthetic appreciation. There is such a rich, dense history within each piece, and not just by the dates printed on the captions, but also by what is purely tangible, the little details that are at times easily overlooked--the delicate edges of the stone sculptures, so precious because they appear about to fragment mercilessly at any moment; the sweeping contours of brushstrokes projecting slightly out of the canvas, strokes left by a painter who had wished to leave us with this secret masterful technique that created his painting into what it's been all these years...
Each tiny detail contributes to the grand statement of how infinitely valuable and worthy of preservation the museum's wisely aging pieces are.
However, looking at Le Louvre, it has an even deeper and more recognizable history than the Getty. With its overwhelming size and decorative intricacy dictated by the traditional French palace architecture since the Renaissance, the entire building must be called a masterpiece all on its own. The pieces themselves have not only come from the Western world (Greek and Roman antiquities, furniture and objets d'art, etc.) that is so popular in art museums and the public eye, but also from the depths, rolling hills and seas of places that deserve just as much attention--Ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian antiquities, as well as Islamic Art. What distinguishes the museum even more from the Getty is the fact that it houses the pieces that have over the years stood as uniquely ground-breaking definitions of memorable works of art, such as da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the beautiful and sensuous Venus de Milo statue. That said, it is undeniable that without the valuable piece of history Le Louvre stands for, the word "art" wouldn't have as much of the color of life and diversity that it's wrapped itself around through all the years.
With the EMP, it is honestly difficult to compare it to the Getty and Le Louvre, because of the extreme shift to the type of art this museum exhibits. It does not show the highest successes by Michelangelo or the highlights of Picasso, but it instead declares the sure achievements of musical legends like Jimi Hendrix. When you walk into the museum, you will be instantly surrounded by a modern aura radiating through the towering and curving walls and the vivid, glowing colors, as well as technologically advanced ways to allow moving music to catch your attention (for example, having a giant projection screen in one room that shows videos with music blended with scenes of cityscapes). You will be led by stairs, ramps, and turning paths to various exhibits, one of which tells the history of guitar amplification through displaying a 1770s Italian guitar, and going all the way to guitars that were played as the main vehicles of rock 'n' roll. All these artifacts that you will encounter are precious remnants of the evolution and bottomless pool of music, where styles have mixed and blended into each other, while other colors of sound have spun and molded into what have become true definitions of music shared by the entire world. This is what I admire most by the EMP, which is why I decided in my mind to almost put the museum in a compartment of its own, separate from the visual world preserved by the Getty and Le Louvre. This is not to say that I don't admire the visual arts, because I definitely do! There is nothing better than to stand in front of a painting with wonder and awe, watch how the evident brushstrokes curve and overlap each other to blend the colors with ageless versatility, and try to answer the inevitable question of how this piece of work survived the hardships of time and now looks just as much of a masterpiece as it did in the beginning.
And despite this drastic differences in art form between the three art museums, it is safe to say that all three state the same theme: that the big names like Picasso and Nirvana had used their unique visions and motivations to redefine the world around them, and in turn to redefine the art form they had immersed themselves in--and these museums are willing to take every little bit of their architecture, organization of the art, lighting, and all the other features, and turn it into the reenactment of the change that those names had created at the time.
So if I were to answer the question, What do you think an art museum should look like?, I would say it can look like anything, because Nirvana's biggest hits were not meant for the same part of the outside world as Michelangelo's David statue. No two pieces of art (or genres of art) can interact with the outside world in one way; since an art museum is to mirror whatever painting/sculpture/guitar it wishes to exhibit, its final look would as a result be different with Nirvana versus Michelangelo.
What do you think? How would you answer the question?
Please let me know, because my curiosity is practically boiling over! :) I'm all (pig) ears...