On 5 June, we, a group of PhDs and junior lecturers from ESHCC, had the privilege of being the first audience to embark on the "Juicy Art Tour" at the renowned Kunstmuseum in The Hague. This new tour, that had not launched at the time of our visit, provided an opportunity for us to delve into fascinating narratives while offering feedback to help enhance the overall audience experience.
Unveiling the Juicy Art Tour
Kunstmuseum Den Haag, home to an extensive collection of 160,000 objects, decided to break away from traditional museum tours and introduce the Juicy Art Tour. This innovative tour transports visitors into the love life of Wassily Kandinsky, the youth of Yayoi Kusama, and Escher's encounter with Mick Jagger. What’s the juice behind the fact that M.C. Escher and J.R.R. Tolkien were active around the same time? It reveals a side of the museum rarely seen before, where juicy, funny, and moving background information takes centre stage.
The Question that Ignited Discussion
"Can we separate the art from the artist?" Throughout history, prominent artists have often found themselves the cause of or entangled in massive controversies, raising questions about the inherent value of their creations. While artistic quality may be subjective to a large extent, every piece of artwork has an underlying, objective value. Regardless of how our perception of an artist may change and how it might impact our subjective appreciation of their art, the artistic quality remains constant.
This realization fuelled our contemplation, challenging us to explore the boundaries of separating the art from the artist in light of conflicting narratives. We delved into questions regarding our personal interpretations and reactions to the, sometimes, disturbing details surrounding artists, such as their controversial comments and actions. Take, for instance, the renowned Salvador Dalí. How would our perception of his artwork be influenced by the knowledge of his disturbing obsession with Nazism and Fascism? Does this information warrant inclusion by cultural organizations alongside the praise and admiration for his artistic contributions?
It also asked us to consider the ethical responsibilities of cultural institutions in presenting a balanced portrayal of artists, acknowledging their contributions while providing transparency about their troubling aspects. We were asked to provide feedback after completing the tour, and one of our suggestions relates to this topic. We hope that this tour or future tours include a stronger intersectional approach, creating more insights into the combined effects of, for example, gender and ethnicity.
All in all, our exploration of the question, "Can we separate the art from the artist?" during the tour steered us on a journey of self-reflection and critical examination. It challenged our perceptions, tested our moral compasses, and underscored the importance of considering the relationship between artists, their creations, and the controversies surrounding them.
While we discovered that separating art from the artist may not always be entirely possible, we acknowledged certain factors when appreciating artworks. We often hope that our favourite artists are decent people, yet we recognize that historical context may have influenced their questionable practices. And considering the financial aspects, we discussed who benefits from the art today, with estates or individuals previously harmed by the artist often involved.
A Contemporary Approach to Museum Tours
What set the Juicy Art Tour apart was its ability to strike a delicate balance between informative and entertaining. It successfully showcased a modern and engaging perspective on the classic museum tour. The tour guides, Marijn Geist and Evan Pridmore, were outstanding and they navigated us through diverse topics with passion and knowledge. They provided valuable background information and context, making it accessible even for those less familiar with art.
The Juicy Art Tour at Kunstmuseum, The Hague, exceeded our expectations, delivering a unique and captivating experience. Its blend of intriguing stories, humour, and informative content showcased a contemporary approach to museum tours. With Marijn Geist and Evan Pridmore as exceptional guides, we explored the question of separating art from the artist and gained a deeper understanding of the complexities involved. We highly recommend this tour to art enthusiasts and novices alike, as it offers a fresh perspective on the rich tapestry of artistic history.
The tour was launched for the general public on 20 June 2023. For more information about the tour, please visit Kunstmuseum's press page. Here, you can also find the tour booklet, in English and in Dutch, and a list of sources.