Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crowded house

If you want a thoroughly unpleasant experience, you should hot foot it to Manet: Inventor of the Modern at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The queues are enormous representing at least two hours of twisting and turning in the huge forecourt of the Museum as you slowly shuffle towards the entrance. But hang on, if you pre-book your tickets you are funnelled into a shorter queue of about ten minutes and that is really not too bad. Until you get into the exhibition that is.

If you had any idea of having a careful look at the paintings, forget it. Even though the tickets are all time specific, crowds are crushed in front of every major work from the moment the doors open. The museum has made the labels for each work very brief and emphasised audio tours and that does nothing to help the flow. If a work is covered in the audio, people show an amazing determination to stop and listen to the whole commentary. Many of them stand stock-still, staring vaguely into the middle distance between them and the work, as they are told stories they assume are about the painting they are hovering in front of (but, given some of the frowns and doubtful head nodding, not always).

However, we did work out a few tricks to at least salvage something out of one of these overcrowded blockbusters.
  • Concentrate on works that are not covered by the audio guide. Most people pass by them quickly looking for the next audio symbol.
  • Head straight to the end of the exhibition and work your way back to the beginning. Most people run out of energy for the last third of the show and the paintings are much easier to see.
  • Learn to enjoy drawings and watercolours and prints. No one else is even vaguely interested.
  • Take photos to remind yourself of what attracted you to the works you liked. There were ‘no photography’ signs everywhere but the guards had given up.
Images: Queuing and viewing.