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The Art Museum as a Ritual Essay

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Duncan begins her article, “The Art Museum as Ritual,” by comparing art museums to religious/ceremonial spaces, not only in architectural design but also in their purpose. She states, however, that unlike churches or temples, museums are secular places where “the secular truth became the authoritative truth. ” Thus, a separation of church and state came to be an, as Duncan states, “religion…kept its authority only for voluntary believers. She then goes on to the differences between secular and religious entities, stating that in the secular/religious terms of our culture, ritual and museum are adversative. However, she argues that all secular places have rituality behind their purpose. “The ritual character of museums is experienced in terms of the kind of attention one brings to it and the quality of its time and space. ” Just as in churches or temples, one is expected to behave in a serene and respectful manner when in a museum.

In terms of rituality of museums, it is the visitors who enact the ritual, and the museum itself serves to set the stage for those performing the ritual. Museums, as early medieval cathedrals, have architectural details that allow the flow of a continuous narrative that is meant to be followed by those who are among them. Just as rituals, museums have a set purpose of being beneficial visual experiences. Duncan’s description of museums as rituals cannot be applied to all museums, seeing as how she describes the purpose of museums to serve as a form of enlightenment for the viewer.

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Depending on the museum and the visitor, this purpose might not always be served. However, the Blanton Museum does a fine job of meticulously providing its visitors with a sense of spiritual accomplishment as they walk in and out of its majestic doors. The location of the Blanton Museum is on the outskirts of campus, which gives it a sense of reclusion from what could be one’s “every-day walk through campus. ” However, this should not be seen as a negative aspect of its location; instead, this aloofness gives a sense of distinction and importance.

Because one does not pass by this building every day, as it is in my case, the thought of going becomes all the more thrilling and inviting. Compared to the rest of the campus, the Blanton Museum does not stand out much as Duncan describes museums to be: captivating in architecture alone. It is when one walks in through rounded arches and glass doors that one is captivated by its beauty and purpose. One thing that stood out most to me was, as Duncan describes as an attribute of museums to be, the “impressive flight of stairs. Although not as impressive, these stairs are quite captivating with their blued-tiled walls that simulate, in my opinion, the ocean. These stairs also serve as part of the Blanton’s atrium, which is a large open space and whose main focus is in fact the stairs. The artist who created this magnificent work of art, Teresita Fernandez, transformed Blanton’s Rapoport Atrium into a place of welcome that surrounds visitors with color and illusion. As you walk up the stairs, you encounter the Ancient Greek and Roman Exhibition.

Each gallery consist of large open spaces that allow for each art piece to be showcased in such a way that it engages the viewer and captivates their attention completely before moving on to the next piece. Each gallery showcases various works of art from similar time frames and in a continuous and flowing manner; also, each exhibition is organized chronologically and thematically. The Blanton Museum is ranked as one of the top university museums in the country because within its wall are some of the world’s most unique and treasured works of art.

The Blanton also consists of various unique works of art, such as Max Gimblett’s Teacher Walks Thru My Heart. This parallels UT Austin’s originality and its devotion to the many unique intellectuals that make up one this great university. Like UT, the Blanton is dynamic and leaves those who visit it with a sense of accomplishment. The piece that will be discussed in this paper is that of Max Gimblett’s Teacher Walks Thru My Heart His installations present several types of Rinzai Zen Buddhism drawings, all of which are created as part of Gimblett’s spiritual practice.

This piece is displayed in one of the lower-level galleries from the Blanton, along with Gimblett’s other pieces that represent the same basic idea and practice of meditation through art. The gallery is a simple four-by-four white room with artificial lighting. Each piece is displayed in different sides of the gallery, so as to give each one enough space and importance. Because of its simplicity, I think Gimblett’s work should be displayed in a much brighter room with perhaps different colored walls.

The parchment in which each of his pieces are created is simple, white paper that almost blends in to its background. If the walls were a different color than the parchment, the piece would have much more emphasis and captivate the viewer’s eye. This, however, would not serve the purpose of Gimblett’s work: meditation through art. Perhaps this collection should be showcased in a more serene environment so as to fit the theme of meditation. Duncan does a fine job at describing how the building and architecture of a museum impact the art pieces that are within its walls.

Just as in described in her article, the Blanton museum consists of great rooms and long halls that display various works of art and each piece is given enough space so as not to be overshadowed by another. The purpose or ritual that Duncan describes is well met by the Blanton Museum; upon entering, one is quickly captivated by the artistic essence and originality it hold and upon leaving, one leaves with a sense of awe and admiration for the new gained knowledge they have received.

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