Monday, February 15, 2010

El Museo De Barrio

So yesterday we met up with our good friends Paul and Karin to celebrate a low key Valentine's Day but going to El Museo De Barrio, the Neighborhood Museum. We are always up for visiting a museum, and one dedicated "to present and preserve the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans in the United States" sounded particularly gratifying. Although many consider Filipinos only asian, there is a very heavy Spanish influence, and we have many similiarities with Latin American cutures. The exhibit was pretty nice, with great works by Frida Kahlo and the like. But what should have been an inspiring visit to a newly renovated museum was ruined by what I can only describe as Gestapo like security guards. The one security guard stationed in the lobby was very nice and welcoming, as were the two ladies that manned the front desk. But as soon as we entered the exhibit area we were met with a overly anxious security guard that had to make sure we had paid our "suggested" donation fee*. By looking over each one of us carefully to ensure we were wearing our admission pins properly. Then we made the mistake of wandering into the exhibit the "wrong" way and were told by another guard, again in a very dictatorial manner that we were supposed to enter the exhibit through the other door. Moments after we re-grouped and headed into the "right" direction, I was excited to find an art work that was about Culebra (where friends of ours have a little piece of property). Now this artwork was part of a very large exhibition mounted on the wall and the whole thing was encased in glass. I was not touching the glass, but vaguely pointing at the artwork with my brochure...again not touching the glass..and I was reprimanded by the very same security guard that accosted us when we first entered the exhibit.

This was the main theme throughout the exhibit with each room I visited, I took careful note, not to make any sudden moves and watched as countless other visitors got corrected. John pointed out that most of the artists and art works were about fleeing oppression and about freedom of speech and rising up against the man, and it could not have been more ironic that these pieces of artwork are "guarded" with Gestapo like brutality. I suffered through the rest of the exhibit, but the treatment that I experienced first hand and the treatment that I watched others experience left a very sour taste on my tongue. Art work in general is usually about celebrating creative freedom, and artwork by minorities specifically exploit these opportunities for self expression. But the way almost every single visitor was treated today by these guards was at the very least offensive if not oppressive. It's a shame that these guards don't seem to understand that you don't need to hostile to be effective. And as far as I could tell all the guards were minorities themselves, and perhaps they should take a moment to look at and understand the voices of the artworks that they are overseeing.

We also recently visited the Rubin museum and the Museum of Art and Design, which overall were much better experiences. Security guards there did have to reign in visitors, but did so in a respectful and non abusive manner.

*This along with other museums (The Met, for example) do not have a set fee for admission. Meaning that they are well endowed, and that visitors can choose to pay what ever they want to enter the museum. Which means basically I could have paid $1 to enter. Which only makes this security guards actions against us even more absurd.


Anonymous said...

that place sucked.

:) jv

Nyarlathotep said...

That's terrible. If a guard is interfering with your enjoyment of art then he needs to be shit-canned.