By Greg Markley
Fran Lebowitz, a witty writer and outspoken New Yorker, said in 2010 that her friend, a renowned art collector in Manhattan, destroyed a $120 million Picasso when his elbow cut through the canvas and tore it. The art collector was partially blind. When Lebowitz asked a bunch of people which Picasso it was, they said: “The one worth many millions!”
No one told him what the painting was about: They focused on the money, and the prestige of owning such a work. This led Lebowitz to remark that: “There is no more suitable and potent image-symbol for our time than the image of the blind art collector.” She added: “If you were going to write a history of the era, you should call it “The Blind Art Collector and Other Stories.”
Like the sight-challenged art collector, they care most about what something is worth, or how showing it to others makes them more popular. We like to “keep up with the neighbors,” but may not really enjoy things we own beyond their making us feel good as we climb the social ladder. As an example, I saw a photo in the New York Times of many visitors taking selfies at the Museum of Modern Art. Only a few were engaging in the “quiet contemplation” good art demands.
East Alabamians are fortunate to have a fine trio of museums: the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University; the Museum of East Alabama in Opelika and the Lee County Historical Society Museum in Loachapoka. If you want to take a selfie, good, but please make an effort to explore the museums in depth. Go beyond the selfies!
MOMA is among the top attractions in New York City, according to Travel Advisor. The staff must move people along, but surely they allow serious art lovers to stay admiring a painting for at least 20 minutes. This museum is popular because of its focus on artwork, such as “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh, which is iconic after being featured in movies and pop culture.
“It’s as if taking a photo of a work in a museum means ‘seeing’ it to a viewer, even though someone like me worries that taking the photo replaces it in the slow and thoughtful way I would ideally wish,” said Ann Temkin, Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the museum.
“And the problem with all the photo-takers is that they make it impossible for someone who wants to do that kind of looking to do so.”
Here’s the Tiger Woods angle. The legendary golfer did not take his first selfie until June of this year! He struggled for a few seconds, and then found how it works. Perhaps thousands of people have taken selfies with Tiger, but the Masters champion had never taken one of himself.
“It’s nice, isn’t it,” he said of restrictions on cell phones at the Masters. Other times he felt uncomfortable, as somebody might forget to shut off their phone.
At the Augusta, Georgia event, there were cell phone banks set up for safe use, away from the fairway. No text messages, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. were allowed. Since 2010 those have been permitted at other PGA Tour venues, but the Masters is the most famous golf event, and tradition is preeminent. They want Augusta National to keep golf as the focus.
“I always like no cellphones,” said golfer Brooks Koepka to the Charleston, SC Post and Courier. “You don’t have to deal with text messages. It’s nice to put it away a bit.” But Masters champion Phil Mickelson rethought his position, which had, like Koepka, been anti-cell phone.
“It’s really been a good thing for the Tour, and I think at some point, the knowledge base of fans will be such where they will be able to have their phones,” Mickelson commented.
Smartphones and various cell phone capabilities are constants in our lives, whether we support their use at museums, on golf courses, or in designated classrooms at Auburn University or Southern Union. Among celebrities who do not use cell phones are Tom Cruise, Elton John, Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Ventura. But they must have assistants who field their calls. And who wants to twist Jesse “The Body’s” arm to get him to join our smartphone-using crowd?
Greg Markley has lived in Lee County for 18 of the last 23 years. An award-winning journalist, he has master’s degrees in education and history. He has taught as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama.