A Modern Museum for an Ancient Nation?
With the French Revolution came the first truly public museum in the world, the Louvre, which opened its doors in 1793. Private collections owned by wealthy individuals were made accessible to the middle and upper classes in major European cities roughly since the eighteenth century. Access to such collections by a greater public was seen as one of the engines of European enlightenment. With the emergence of public museums came a new approach to art history that considered the views of the beholder, rather than just the viewpoint of the artist. New fields of knowledge became essential because museums were national spaces where identities were negotiated through the ritual of viewing untouchable objects.
Power relations between object, owner, institution, and viewer were constructed based on class relations: aristocrats owned precious objects that could be viewed by a wider audience within an institutional setting. Once objects were clearly identified as unfamiliar, such as Pharaonic, new dimensions including race and exoticism were added to the museum experience. Awe-inspiring ancient art from faraway places stimulated a wave of travel, treasure hunting, and exploration to destinations such as Egypt.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Case Against the Grand Egyptian Museum
Jadaliyya (Mohamed Elshahed)