Warning: Use of undefined constant user_level - assumed 'user_level' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /home/commons/public_html/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-google-analytics/ultimate_ga.php on line 524

Museums and cultural perceptions

The very first impression I have about the exhibition of Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting is the crowdedness and the hustle and bustle of the room. After waiting in a long line, I shuffled along with all others struggling to see past the backs of so many heads. Though I want to spend a little more time with Vermeer’s artworks and look into the details of women’s skins, gestures and the folds of their dresses in those paintings, I feel that I cannot be selfish because so many others are waiting around me. On the one hand, I look the overcrowding as a good thing. Attendance numbers at Vermeer’s exhibitions reveal that this is a successful exhibition and National Gallery of Art has been sensitive to meet visitors’ needs. At the same time, however, I have some questions about this situation. Will the crowdedness build barriers in allowing visitor involvement and engagement? With so many people in the exhibition at a time, can visitor fully immerse themselves in a museum atmosphere? I know these questions can be tricky to tackle, because no matter how meticulous the advance planning, museums can’t always predict which shows will be megahits or whether the galleries will provide enough room for uncrowded viewing.

Another thing I would highlight about the exhibition of Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting is the layout and the light. I really like the decoration and the color of NGA. I think the lighting system of the museum matches those paintings in exhibition well. I like Vermeer’s work Woman holding a balance especially for this painting gives me a feeling of harmony and serenity. In this painting, Vermeer uses his iconic palette of blue, grey and yellow that lends the scene its cool tonality and harmony. The skylight from the window lends the peaceful highlights of the young woman’s skin. Her hood and collar have a crispness. His brush is virtuoso. I like the fine reflections in the balance, the highlights of the pearls, and the contrast between the fine blue fabric in the left foreground and the coarser texture of the woman’s yellow wool gown – and subtle handling of light seeping in through a gap in the curtains.

Johannes Vermeer
Dutch, 1632 – 1675
Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664
oil on canvas, stretcher size: 42.5 x 38 cm (16 3/4 x 15 in.)
painted surface: 39.7 x 35.5 cm (15 7/8 x 14 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Widener Collection

In fact, I am really looking forward to more knowledge about how to utilize recent advances in lighting technology, such as LEDs, new lighting control options, the use of daylight to improve visitor’s visual experiences. What I know is many museums have adopted the new LED lighting system to illuminate paintings. Although emerging technologies such as LEDs provide wonderful new tools for improved illumination, the flood of new technologies has created confusion about selecting appropriate lighting solutions. How to enhance the visual experience and minimize light-induced damage is a question I would like to know the answer.