As someone who hopes to one day own her own gallery, I’m a bit offended by Heidegger’s opinions about the art industry (in “The Origin of the Work of Art).  He’s not entirely wrong but I don’t think he’s entirely right either.  He says that the displacement of art destroys the world of the piece.  I believe this is true for certain art – ancient art taken from its natural setting and put in a museum mainly.  But even on that I’m a bit torn.  On the one hand, I don’t think artifacts should be removed from their original settings.  But on the other hand, they do need to be preserved and putting them in a museum allows more people to see them and experience them.  Over the summer I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the ancient Mesopotamian section was able to see the giant Lamasus and relief carvings from Shalmaneser III’s palace that I learned about the previous semester.  It was amazing being around these monumental pieces of art and to experience them, even if they were not in their original environment.  So yes, Heidegger’s view of the art industry destroying the world of a piece I think is valid for ancient art and monuments that have an original environment in the first place. 

            However I think Heidegger is overlooking one thing.  For much modern art, especially painting and photography, the gallery is the world of the art.  The gallery is its intended space.  This however, puts a lot of pressure on the person in charge of setting up exhibits to make sure each piece is shown in a way that is true to the piece and does not destroy its world.  There are so many factors that influence how a work of art is perceived.  From lighting to frame, all these things matter.  Living artists have the option of controlling how their work is seen and able to preserve the world.  For artists who are no longer around though, it’s up to the curators.  Curators must take this responsibility of not destroying the world of a piece seriously.

Lamasu at the Met

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