Towards an Imagined Museum
A museum in our minds, we each carry one. Or several. Perhaps yours is an art museum. Or perhaps not. Not all affinities can be shared. But that’s okay, too.
The permanent collection, in this museum in our minds, is never fully on display. The viewing hours can be eccentric as well, since the permanent collection is a personal one. Rules of ownership apply. (Just say it - not all can gain admission.) Some works remain hidden deep in storage vaults. Others suffer damage in need of careful restoration. The permanent collection is being painstakingly curated and acquired over a lifetime. Not everything in the permanent collection is a masterpiece, but not every piece needs to be, either.
Oh! But the ones that are!
There are some works in the permanent collection, in this museum in our minds, which have not even been completed, let alone begun. And there are the ones which haven’t even been imagined.
(A docent, trained to be subtle, will also say that there are works in the permanent collection which were unfinished, hesitant to say abandoned or left behind. Or the unspoken intolerable: missing or lost.)
Not every work in the permanent collection was expensive. Some works were, however; they cost dear. Scholars say the provenance of some of the works is sketchy, vague, hard to trace; not to mention those other whispered unsavory rumors. Whatever their individual cost, wherever they came from, the value of each work is the same: incalculable. Irreplaceable.
The permanent collection is never quite finished until the day it unexpectedly is.
The permanent collection isn’t.
The permanent collection is dispersed, broken up; it vanishes completely. To this day, not a single piece survives. There was a Chinese philosopher who wrote that each being was a burning library, but his name escapes me . . .
A museum in our minds. The thought: time presses. The desire: to linger just a bit longer still in this gallery, or perhaps to go back to that other gallery, that funny shaped little room, near the back, the one - you know which one I’m talking about - with the lovely image of . . .
All images in Ars Longa were photographed over a period of two years in various art museums throughout the United States, ranging from New York to California.