This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.
Day 12, (I have lost track of time) – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating
Day 12 or this Saturday was our day off. This meant that we had the choice to do whatever we wanted to do. A few decided to go and visit their families, others thought that it will be much better that they head off to NY, while others just decided to rest. For us, the choice was of visiting more museums than what we have already seen. The day was suppose to begin at 9 ( as per our friend Rajesh) but we hardly left the hotel before 10. So at 10 in the morning, we headed off to the Museum of African Art. I had been very excited to go to this museum, since there was the display of “African Cosmos”. The first thought that came in my head when I heard about this exhibition was the starting page from the book “Roots” written by Alex Haley.
You see in the starting page the story starts with the father of Kanta holding him up to the stars and saying something like “There is nothing above you”. I thought this was one of the most important moments in the life of that child and a seriously wonderful tradition. So I really wanted to go there. The first thing however you see as soon as you enter the museum (although that was only there for the weekend – I think) is a blue round tent. The tent is actually a planetarium sort of thing which shows the Southern Sky – or sky as seen from Africa – which we in the northern hemisphere can never see. The night African Sky was amazing.
Nancy Mcwright over at the Free and Sackler Gallery had mentioned that the use of space inside the African Art was completely different as compared to the FS, although the two buildings have been designed as exact duplicates. The first difference when you enter into the African Art is the use of the interiors. The interiors at African Art are more regional and indigenous. There is also a lot of play of colour and most importantly, there is no confusion at all. FS Galleries can be extremely confusing. God knows, that I am still confused inside it, but in African Art there is nothing of that sort.
There were certain really amazing displays in the Museum, including Jewelry, Daily usage toys that people in Africa used to make for their kids, masks, ritual clothes etc.
Another amazing thing was the statue that I am sharing below. This statue done by an African artist, Ousmane Sow, shows the Haitian leader Toussaint Louverture freeing the land from repression. The sculpture is so striking in so many ways, in the way the sorrow and the mixed emotions of freedom and grief cover the face of the women kneeling before him. The sense of responsibility in the leader himself is more than apparent and has been caught perfectly by the artist.
There is also another exhibition that is worth seeing, although once again I have to say that Modern Art is still not my thing. The exhibition is a photography/mixed medium by the photographer turned Painter (or maybe it is the other way round) Leyla Essayandi. Her work is really worth seeing. We were not allowed to photograph the work therefore I have no pictures of it to post here (except one), but one should really give it a try. It is all about the position of women in the much fantasized and romanticized harems of Africa. Some of the pictures are actually truly very haunting.
The African Cosmos exhibition was not what I expected it to be. The work actually traced the way in which cosmos have been depicted in the various writings and paintings, but for some reason it didn’t hit the right spot with me. Maybe I still had Kanta on my mind when I walked through it.
My second stop was at the Hirshhorn Museum. So again this was Modern Art and not what I would normally prefer, but there were certain experimental pieces which made me both, be in awe of it and question the very thought process and his mental stability. One of my favorite pieces of course was Kandinsky – and I am so glad I can now be one of those snobs who can raise their noses up and see – “Well its nothing compared to the real Kandinsky” ! There was also a piece by Frank Lloyd Wright, which was a design of the windows that he did.
There was also a very wonderful installation that was done in the museum. The name of this upcoming exhibition is “Belief+Doubt” and is done by the artist Barbara Kruger. It was truly a wonderful piece. The sayings that were plastered all over the basement level were both intriguing and definitely made you wonder.
The last stop of the day was at the National Air and Space Museum… now someone said to me a few days ago that almost 70 million people come to this museum every year. I really thought than that they may have lost their mind, but the fact of the matter is that I, after my visit am sure, that this number is an understatement. I am pretty sure that there were that many people only yesterday in there. There was so much crowd in it that it was impossible to see anything. You could not walk and actually see anything. You were just being swept around by the very sea of the people that was there.
The Museum is huge.. it is actually ridiculously huge. My friends – who decided to skip the Hirshhorn Museum and were there an hour before me took almost 3 hours to see the museum. I took 2 hours and even then I will never in my life say that I actually saw it – I just glanced through the museum. I have yet to believe myself that it took me 2 hours to just glance through it. It was ridiculous the size. There were around 8 galleries, each covering a different aspect of Air and Space. There were lines for everything – for getting in the Planetarium, the IMAX theater, the plane, the spaceship – even for the washrooms for heaven sake.
But there is no doubt that some of the stuff there was pretty cool – like the Wright Brother plane model, the space shuttle, Apollo Space Shuttle, The moon rock, the Howard Hughes Plane, the first plane that crossed the Atlantic, and god knows what. But all said and done, It was a zoo more than a museum.
The museum trip was enough to convince us that it is now time to rest. So we headed back to our place and spent the rest of the day indoors.