Last Thursday evening my husband and I headed to the Edmonton Art Gallery to take in the last of the Albrecht Durer exhibition. I'd been meaning to go for ages, but I'd never had the time.
This was my first visit to the Art Gallery of Alberta. I have to say I was rather disappointed. The exhibit itself was rather nice--the gallery had a large selection of Durer's prints, with some fairly good notes on the exhibition. But the overall atmosphere of the museum was lacking. Perhaps this was because the AGA is undergoing renovations, and the museum is currently being held in another location (the old Hudson's Bay Building in Downtown Edmonton).
The other thing that took me by surprise was the Museum's stand on photography. While taking a picture of one of the prints with my cellphone, I was informed by one of the museum's overzealous staff members that photography was not permitted in the museum. I had not seen the sign at the museum's entrance that said we couldn't take pictures, so I innocently reassured the fellow that there was no flash. It didn't matter, he informed me, visitors could not take photographs due to copyright reasons.
Now, being a blogger, I am fairly up to date on copyright issues. There cannot be any copyright on Durer's work--it's been nearly 500 years since his death! Nevertheless, one could hold copyright on Images of Durer's work, so the museum is apparently trying to ensure that they have the only images of the work and that public will have to pay for copies of their images--which is just silly, given the fact that there are numerous copies of Durer's work in the public domain (such as the one included in this post).
I honestly have never been to a museum that did not allow non-flash photography, so I was a little taken aback. Nearly every museum in Europe allows photography, so long as there is no flash used (which makes sense, right? Museums are supposed to protect art, not keep it from the public). I do realise that keeping the public from taking flash photography can be rather challenging. I have seen priceless works of art at the Louvre being snapped with full flash, and it always makes me cringe (especially since there are signs EVERYWHERE telling people not to take flash photos). As a result, I can understand why some museums might be tempted not to permit photography at all. Nevertheless, I believe it's important to allow photography. It's important that museums be exciting, open places--The AGA is more like a tomb where art goes to die.
But back to the art. The prints were spectacular. Both of us were amazed at the depth of Durer's prints, given the fact that he was born just twenty years after the advent of the printing press! Javier's favourite was Melencolia, simply because it had so much symbolism to dissect! It was fascinating.
I have a question for you all! One aspect of Melencolia wasn't explained in the gallery's exhibition notes. That was the grid in the upper right hand corner of the painting. It reminds me a little of Sudoku. The numbers all add up to 34 in every direction, but that's all I know! If anyone knows what it is, I would love to hear from you!
(image courtesy of Wikimedia)