Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Visiting an Art Museum in Paris

Visiting an art museum in Paris is not like visiting one near where you live.

What you like in the museum near your home, you can safely predict you will see again – if you want to. The question is whether you are the kind of person who wants to see again what you got to see once. The question is whether you discover more the next time you see it – and even more after that. The question is whether something you like in a museum near your home gets to feel more yours with each visit to the museum, with each standing before the painting, with each walking around a statue.

It is frightening to approach a place like the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay if you know you cannot get there again in a few weeks. So much has to be seen before you exit through those doors. So much about a single masterpiece waits to be noticed and appreciated and absorbed before you move out of that gallery.

It is good to consider what you like to do in a visit to an art museum. Is it fundamentally an outing with a friend, a chance to walk around in the company of someone you enjoy in these settings? Is it a pilgrimage, planned and determined, an approach flavored by some awe and reverence until you stand before particular works, particular artists? Is it a plunge into history, an emotional adventure, a leap into the great conversation that women and men of talent and vision felt their lives could manage to be part of? Or is it simply an acknowledgment of the current cultural scene and its opportunities?

A year ago I had begun to plan a summer visit to Paris. I had gotten to think about what to expect returning once again to that city of my heart.

You go to Paris again because there may be more to what that city is than you ever understood.

You go to Paris because there may be more to you than you have ever understood.

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