My family took a trip to New York at the end of last summer to visit some of our cousins at West Point, but we did get to spend a day in the city. I have recently decided that I could not thrive in any kind of major city, and a visit was overwhelming to say the least, but we were able to hit a few places we’d been planning on seeing, as well as see a friend who had moved there several months ago now.
We took the train from New Jersey into Pennsylvania Station and then decided that it would be an excellent idea to walk all the way to the 9/11 Memorial. After we had all begun to suffer from hanger, we figured we better eat some lunch before we started to turn on each other.
Our next stop of the day was the Museum of Modern Art (we took the subway this time), where we met up with our friend Sarah. Now, I’m a pretty big art nerd, and while I may not know all the artists’ names or the titles of their work, I just love being able to stand underneath their art and bask in the glow of their creations.
But there was something strange about this museum visit. Being in New York, the MoMA is designed to host probably hundreds if not thousands of visitors, and that day had been no exception. People from all over the world had arrived to enjoy the great works of modern artsits from Van Gogh to Picasso to Warhol.
The strange part, for me, was the presence of all of the cameras and iPhones I saw hovering in front of the eyes of the spectators. I saw people looking through their screens as they wandered from room to room, snapping pictures of the paintings. There was one man handling a full-sized iPad who was so oblivious of where he was walking that he nearly tripped over a sculpture sitting on the floor behind him as he tried to get a better shot at the one in front. I thought the security guard was going to have a conniption.
I turned a corner to find a huge crowd gathered in front of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. I honestly did not know this painting was in this collection and let out a very audible gasp when my eyes finally found it. Everyone there was trying to shove their way to the front, fighting to get a better view – to take the best picture of it.
I, of course, was doing many of these things, too. It became very important to me to record all of the things I was looking at. You know, so I could look at it later…
But thinking back, I wish I had just been there. Enjoyed the art work hanging there in front of me. I saw some people having very visceral reactions to particular pieces, and I did, too, I suppose. (I shed a few tears when I walked by the Klimt paintings and into the Monet collection.)
I guess it’s best to find a balance there. I don’t think recording your trips with the camera on your phone is a bad thing. But seeing SO many people wandering through this beautiful museum just looking through their phone screens and not really seeing struck a chord with me.
Next time I’m in a place like this, I’m going to do my best be there. And enjoy the moment for what it is.