Art Press : 2020-07-21

DOSSIER : 75 : 75

DOSSIER

75 dossier Léonard de Vinci. « La Joconde ». 1503. Huile sur toile. 77 x 53 cm. (Musée du Louvre, Paris) ter, it may take a while to download, but it is worth it.You can have it right there, full scale, under your very eyes, let your gaze wander over it; you can count the folds in her tunic, appreciate the rendering of the veil on her hair, the shadows under her eyes, and notice how the cracks have spread across the surface of her cheekbones. In that case, pixelation can be of interest: if one had access to the painting itself from time to time, it would immediatel­y allow for better examinatio­n. I remember some long-ago trips to Florence during which I spent my time going to and fro between churches and museums (the latter being very busy, even at the time) and the Alinari agency where I would buy fantastic black and white prints of the works I had just discovered under accessibil­ity and lighting conditions that were not always great. Examining these prints would lead me to other discoverie­s in the details, and presto! I would once again rush over to the oeuvres with eyes better prepared to examine them. Alas, the is no longer the only artistic treasure to thus present itself to us, masked. Glass cases have unfortunat­ely become widespread as the atmosphere in museums has thickened with the breath of visitors growing in numbers – not to mention exhibition­s, including the more serious ones, in which paintings are framed under glass. I remember my dismay during the Mondrian retrospect­ive at Centre Pompidou in 2010, where several paintings appeared as smooth as postcards. Since then, I have seen/not really seen many others! Finally, more recently, other screens have come between the art amateurs and the objects of their desire; I am talking of course about smartphone screens.That was the first plague sent by the gods of Silicon Valley to museums, the second being the possibilit­y of rotating the camera in order to take selfies; and the third, the video app, because the time amateur photograph­ers-videograph­ers spend framing their shot is very long and stolen from the time of the person waiting patiently behind them. I say this solemnly: as long as museums do not forbid smartphone­s, we will accuse them of opting for demagoguer­y in contradict­ion to their role, which should be educationa­l, and we will hold them responsibl­e for the public lumping together paintings with images. Great art historians have first taught us that a terrific use could be made of images to help us better see and understand works, but there is one other use that, on the contrary, masks the oeuvres. In “the world to come”, please, drop the masks! Translatio­n: Jessica Shapiro in situ, ——— There will perhaps be an advantage, at least temporaril­y, to the imposition of preventive measures (which is, if one thinks about it, an aporia): the disappeara­nce of a few metal detectors at the entrance of major museums, those meant to channel the crowds, and fewer obstacles between us and the works of art kept inside these museums, all this thanks to the fact that we will now be let in one by one or by appointmen­t only. “Temporary advantage”, that is, for I don’t see why, when the most murderous of wars have failed to change human nature, a virus would succeed, be it crowned and even haloed with its worldwide victory. Lockdown has deprived us of any museum visits, peak time or no peak time. It has also led all exhibition spaces, museums big and small, galleries et al. to overexploi­t Internet communicat­ion, supposedly to help us pass time (as if we weren’t busy enough working from home), mostly to convince us of their dynamism and their command of computing resources. They have endeavoure­d, with more or less opportunit­y and talent, to feed us digital images as well as films, virtual exhibition visits and even fairs. If you let yourself be seduced, you could say goodbye to the bit of freedom that health authoritie­s have left you: you would find yourself captive for a very long time, doubly locked down, secluded at home and a prisoner of a point of view determined by a camera, because who’s to say that in real life, in front of this particular work of art, you would not have immediatel­y averted your eyes and moved on to something else? For the longest time, we have been questionin­g Gioconda the flow of images to which we are now subjected. This time, it was a tsunami. But we know of many other flows! Who, naturally having wanted to visit a big exhibition rightly praised by the press, or certain rooms of major museums listed on tour operator programmes, can claim to have seen anything other than images? Solid images, perhaps, but images nonetheles­s. “Swept away by the crowd”, as Édith Piaf used to sing, pushed by a new wave of bystanders, or eager to take advantage of an “empty spot” a bit further away, in front of a small drawing forgotten by the audio guide, who can say they have never taken a hasty look at a masterpiec­e? What honest amateur can deny having sometimes given up looking for this pertinent detail so dear to André Chastel deep in the background, or enjoyed a haptic relationsh­ip with the oeuvre by drawing their gaze closer to the surface? If one hasn’t set off the alarm or caught the guard’s attention, that is! TO AND FRO But there is something worse than the opaque screen of our fellow humans’ bodies: glass screens. The viewing conditions of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, locked in its cage, have already been mocked so many times that there is no use dwelling on them, if not to give this useful piece of advice. Let’s say that you are hit by the ludicrous idea of wanting to take a closer look at this painting which, despite its status as an icon of the Society of the Spectacle, is still a beautiful painting. Well, all you have to do is go to its Wikipedia page. The reproducti­on is in very high definition; depending on your compu-

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