This past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston opened its doors to the general public for free. After experiencing Mass MOCA with me this past summer, my friend contacted me to make plans to go so us and my boyfriend set out Monday morning into Boston. Not only did I take home a pretty nasty cold from this experience, but also a few interesting photos and some thoughts based on the ethics of what we were looking at.
Both the people I visited this Museum with are into historical pieces. I can definitively say that I'm not. Looking through most of the ancient exhibits my boyfriend loved so much reminded me of the terrible ways the Western World has come to claim these works. With every sign I read labeling something as a tomb, as a religious shrine, as something that should be respected and instead has been desecrated, I felt a lingering sense of dread and disapproval growing within me. People from all over come to see these pieces of history but turn a blind eye to what they actually are. I do not want to see a Mummy in a Museum because it was not meant for my prying eyes to see in a Museum. These pieces are someone's burial. These pieces are from sacred grounds. These pieces are from cultures and spaces that were not ours to claim. We can study things, we can discover new ways of life, but who are we to dismantle and steal these aspects of lands not so far away as we make them out to be? I did not feel comfortable looking through these pieces. I did not enjoy seeing these historical feats up close.
I am a fan of contemporary art. I always have been. While yes, all art has at one point been contemporary, I am comfortable with embracing these works in Museums because I know this is what the artists intended for their pieces. Even historical paintings I generally feel okay with seeing because these artists sold their works - they wanted them to be seen. A painting that wasn't stolen, but sold is one thing. It is entirely different than uprooting vases and jewelry from around the world to show to those who don't even think of the implications of those acts. "Fine art" is not my speed. I don't see anything "fine" about a pretentious and self-vindicated system that perpetuates an elitist group and mindset of who can work there and what art is considered "good."
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went. I loved being able to see Van Gogh in person, and walking through the enormous rooms of art that has been preserved and celebrated from times I could never hope to experience is amazing. Though overall, I left the MFA with a sour taste in my mouth and felt that I would choose not to return in the future.
My degree in CJS has allowed me the opportunity to look into far more of my issues with societal practices while pursuing my education and as years go on I'm starting to see how it has affected my mindset. I don't regret this mindset at all, I just wish more people would see that very same issue without my first having to point it out to them. I have no solutions to this, I have no wants, I just am not comfortable with the situation as I'm sure many people aren't. Moving forward, I hope that Museums source their materials ethically, but time will tell. If anything positive came out of this trip, at least I managed to make some steps toward my New Year's Resolution already.