Gallery visitors at the Art Institute of Chicago with Edward Hopper’s (1882–1967) ‘Nighthawks’ (1942). This painting has fascinated me for a while—it seems completely mundane at first but before long you find that it leaves you with more questions than it answers: who are these people? Why is the man on his own? And why is there no door to get from the milk bar to the outside world?! I don’t mind admitting that my desire to see the painting in real life meant that I was sure to put Chicago on my itinerary at a very early stage of planning my North-American trip.
I really became aware of Edward Hopper when I read Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel (2002), especially chapter II, ‘On travelling places’.
I’m definitely a fan of art galleries that allow visitors to take photographs. I find it very interesting to see and depict how other visitors interact with paintings and other pieces of art—if all you want to see is the artworks, you’d be better off getting a postcard, looking in a book, or finding a picture elsewhere on the Web. What we see here, though, is a common attitude of gallery-visitors: to the side, concentrating on the label more than on the painting itself. The label can sometimes act as a safety barrier, telling the visitor what to think rather than requiring him to form his own opinion about an artwork. I know that I certainly do this sometimes—on occasion I flit from label to label with barely a glance for the paintings!
MuseumWintergeotaggednorthamericatravelArt Institute of ChicagoPeoplePainting
From Chicago, December 2009