One of the best things about DC and, specifically, about the Hill, is the free and unfettered access to museums. For Capitol Hill residents, a ten-minute walk places us in the center of one of the best art collections in the world but… how did that art get here? How much of it is, objectively, really good? Does that matter? Who commissioned the imposing tableaux we take for granted? Which monarch sold a priceless art of work to cover up his gambling debt? (¡ESCÁNDALO!)
Yes: sometimes, art is best with the rich back story that surrounds its provenance, or the acquisition of the piece in the museum. You can spend a lot of time reading back issues of ARTFORUM and talking to your art history major friends about it –and in a city as cultured as DC, I am sure that would be the preferred route for some. But what if your museum experience could be more memorable, more intimate, and more fun? That’s the premise behind Museum Hack. The company, only a couple of years old, was founded by Nick Gray in New York City. They have since been expanding to other cities, and I was invited to join one of their tours at the National Gallery of Art.
Although Museum Hack bills itself as a tour tailored for people who don’t like museums, I happen to love museums. However, during this tour I fell in love with the National Gallery even more. Molly, our guide, was not only extremely knowledgeable about art –the rooms to which she guided us included a vast array of styles and techniques, and she was as comfortable speaking about Medieval Apocalyptic painters as she was about American primitive art. She was also well-versed in politics, intrigue, the rivalry between New York and DC and assorted conspiracy theories, as well as, put simply, the art of having fun. She sums it up best, saying, “having fun doesn’t mean that you aren’t learning important historical facts or are not looking at or appreciating the art.” Molly certainly made it look easy, seamlessly transitioning from room to room and weaving stories that intertwine with the subjects of the paintings and the artists themselves. It was a special experience, one which I hope to repeat soon.
If you would like to participate in a Museum Hack tour, you can go to their website or click here for tickets. They will also be having a great event on June 18 at the Freer and Sackler galleries called, “Getting Filthy With Peacocks.” It will be a companion event to the gallery’s exhibit Peacock Room Remix.