My mind keeps replaying a recent visit to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. On the first Sunday of each month, the museum is free to the public. The institution was packed with visitors of all ages and backgrounds. It was unbearably and fantastically crowded. After witnessing long lines and audience excitement, art must be accessible to everyone everyday. Creativity and knowledge is power.
A Czech princess forecasts myths and truths in Karel Vitězslav Mašek’s La prophétesse Libuse [The prophetess Libuse]. The 1893 painting is elegant yet haunting towering over spectators. From the Musée d’Orsay’s website: “Venerated for her wisdom and her gift of prophecy, she is regarded as the originator of the first national dynasty and the founder of Prague. It is said that Libuse reigned over Bohemia from 700 to 738, and managed to prevent it from being divided…Here, Mašek portrays her as a hieratic, spectral moonlit figure, dominating a nocturnal landscape where a river winds across the plain.”
An intriguing highlight included the Pierre Puvis de Chavannes’ Le Pigeon (1911). He was known for mural painting, modernist thinking, and mentoring artists. While French painter Théodule Ribot’s Le bon Samaritain (1870) dramatically redefines the definition of humanity in The Good Samaritan. However, the crowd-pleasing artworks were Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night (1888) and Self-Portrait (1889).
Meanwhile, an adult ticket for one visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is $25 or a $100 yearly membership. There’s no doubt that the value outweighs the cost. Overall, institutions seek funding to survive while exclusive access limits inclusive community participation. In a future utopia, museums are free to everyone throughout the world.
No simply answer here.
In the front foyer of the Musée d’Orsay stands the stoic Statue of Liberty. From the National Park Service: “In 1865, Edouard de Laboulaye (a French political thinker, U.S. Constitution expert, and abolitionist) proposed that a monument be built as a gift from France to the United States in order to commemorate the perseverance of freedom and democracy in the United States and to honor the work of the late president Abraham Lincoln.”
Just ask Ms. Libertas, democracy is not one free day at the museum…