Today we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The cultured of you will know it as having one of the best collections of art in the world housed in a stunning neoclassical building. The rest of you will know it as the building with the big steps that Sylvester Stallone runs up at the end of the training montage in Rocky. Good, we are all on the same page now.
We started in the modern section i.e. 1850 onwards (it would appear that art is very old and so 166 years ago is modern. That makes me feel better about getting old). There were the usual subjects; your impressionists (Monet, Pissarro, Culshaw), your cubists (Picasso, Lipchitz, Schofield) and the surrealists (Dali, Gorky, Farage). They also had a fair amount of Joan Miro. In fact they appeared to have had more Joan Miro than the Joan Miro Foundation had in Barcelona. (Perhaps the foundation are trying to get rid of an excess. You really can have too much Joan Miro…even at a gallery dedicated to just Joan Miro.) In case you don’t know who Joan Miro is, he (yes, he. I bet you have been pronouncing it Joan (as in arc) haven’t you? It’s Juan as in Wan) is a Spanish artist who gives modern art a bad name.
I’m not sure if you remember the play “Art”; it was big in the 90’s but probably not now. To be honest I have no idea when I last went to the West End to see a play. I think John Major was still Prime Minister. What’s on these days? I know Wicked is very popular, or am I thinking of Frozen? Is the musical where the helicopter lands on the stage still going? Anyway, Art. It was a play about 3 friends, one of whom had just bought a very expensive piece of art work. You never see the piece of art, just the back side of it. They speculate as to whether there is anything on the canvas at all. “White line on a white piece of canvas” is the general consensus. The play demonstrates how something utterly pretentious to one person can be inspirational to another. It probably had other messages about the poll tax and the Gulf war, as I say, it was the nineties; but the idea that a canvas with a line on it is a great piece of art, that’s pure Miro. Go to Barcelona and see his three huge canvases each with a line going from left to right, or is it right to left. You decide. It’s art. It took him a about three years to complete. And I think it’s taken me a long time to finish painting that cupboard under the stairs.
But there is more than Miro in Philadelphia. In the “not modern, but not old” section (1500-1850) they have really displayed the artwork well. The galleries are more themed to reflect the artwork and some of them are even complete rooms furnished with paintings, furniture and ornaments. Now I’m not much into antiques but something I do have a soft spot for are silver tea and coffee sets. I like silverware and quite fancy retiring and becoming a silversmith. I’m sure we could fit a furnace on the decking to get smelting. If anyone has any nice silver teapots, coffee pots or sugar tongs spare, I’ll happily take them off your hands. (Out of curiosity, why does sugar need tongs? It’s not really hot. If it was, it would be caramel and you don’t want to be sticking metal in that and you’ll be burning your fingers quicker than you can say “more tea vicar?”.)
One thing that I do find strange about the galleries here is how they are all named after rich benefactors. Now we obviously have always had that in the UK, but these days it’s usually business; The Tate (I wonder if they could answer my sugar tong dilemma?); The Sainsbury Wing; The Tesco Metro Annexe etc. But here they are usually individuals, who always have a middle initial and always use it. (On the way to the airport today the Uber driver had a book whose author had the full house of elements for a real American name for an author, hospital or museum wing. A prefix (Dr) and middle initial and suffix (Jr). I suppose if I got a PhD in, well anything really, I could call myself Dr Andrew B Fenner Jr (even though there isn’t an Andrew B Fenner snr to my knowledge). Every gallery we went into today was named after a patron or beneficiary. I’ve noticed Mr R.E. Stroom has loads of places dedicated to him, so I assume he was an ex President or something.