Ritualistic Elements of the Frank Auerbach London Building Sites Exhibition

In this essay i will be discussing my experience of the Frank Auerbach London building sites exhibition at somerset house in reference to carol duncans essay the art museum as a ritual, focusing on the idea that the experience of the art museum even though seemingly secular and so adjunct from religion, has ritualistic elements that are comparable to those of much older ceremonial practices and buildings.

I begin by addressing this initial assessment based on the facade of the museum, and its surroundings which are key to this sense of escapism from the mundanity of the everyday world, and entry into a realm of enlightenment i.e. the art museum. which we feel we are elevated to a heightened sense of being or understanding, whereby we enter a state. this is prevalent from the outset as my entry into somerset house is through a grand archway which leads me into a spacious courtyard, each side abound with neo classically designed architecture, physically and metaphorically symbolising my transference into a different realm. this is supported by Duncan highlighting ‘ Like most ritual space, museum space is carefully marked off and culturally designated as reserved for a special quality of attention-in this case contemplation and learning.’i could already tangibly sense a shift in my perceptions in coherence to my setting, and i was very aware as a result that my mindset was no longer adhered to the worldly concerns, but that of a state of contemplation. Just as when I entered the museum grounds there was a stark sense of change, as I entered the courtauld gallery the place of the exhibition, a change in my behaviour occurred, due to my preconceptions of the museum space Icarol duncan starts off by suggesting ha…

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…ilent contemplation and analysis, even benign objects come to have greater significance i only after a short while does the manic nature of everyday life become more pronounced.

I believe that my experience of the Auerbach exhibition at Somerset is indicative of Carol Duncan’s belief that ‘art museums are complex entities in which both art and architecture are parts of a larger whole.’I say this because I feel that the preparations and transference to a contemplative mindset was initiated by my initial adherence to the Neo-classical architecture that confronted me as I entered the museum site. Thus allowing me to fully immerse myself in the artwork, and thereby enter a state of liminality. Hence i feel that the sum of these factors was conducive to the overall experience and that each part was integral to it.

Works Cited

carol dunca- the art museum as ritual


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