online: 6 march 2006
modified: 6 march 2006

4 march 2006 the attraction of art

15:21: ...from the National Gallery, view of gallery and street life close to Trafalgar Square, London

inside the gallery a small child leads 3 adults who are obediently following his impulsive movements from window-cill - to base of a Grecian column - to i don't know what... i sit here i listen to the amplified yet attenuated sound of many conversations reaching this spot from several galleries, conversations simulated in part by painters long dead but whose work is alive to more people now than when it was painted...

...and outside, pasted to the pavement is a life-size copy of The Last Supper around which people are standing and gazing and which one man is videoing... almost no one walks on this large carpet-like picture and about one a minute drops money into the artist's hat... if the average gift is say 30 pennies, that is 18 pounds (24 euros) an hour.

This worldwide interest (if that is what it is?) in art and painting - what does it signify, what does it mean?

Visitors who paused at this seat included a man who sat motionless as if waiting for someone until finally he looked at his watch and left... two young Indian parents with a small well-behaved child walking and a smaller and wilder one in a buggy and struggling to be out of it... two French-speaking teenagers who sat for about 2 minutes, then went...

As i consider these (and all the others) i doubt if art itself is the attraction that brings so many thousands, or millions, to visit public galleries (and even pavement artworks) each day...I imagine it is the fame of these artists and their paintings (the culture itself, you might say) and the wish to be part of what others are seeing and doing and talking about...

...the deep or prolonged looking of one person at one painting is probably still rare and still limited to artists... It may be many decades, perhaps centuries, before everyone can be artist in this sense... but i think it could happen.

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