I don’t usually advise against seeing an art exhibit, but I strongly recommend not seeing Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay at the Kimbell Art Museum. I would very much like you to see one of van Gogh’s self portraits, or the ballet dancers by Degas, or the magnificent bust of Victor Hugo by Rodin, or the piano players by Renoir. Unfortunately for all art patrons, the Kimbell Art Museum has stuffed these worldly gems in a closet called the Renzo Piano Pavilion. And if that wasn’t enough, the museum is cramming in paying patrons as fast as they can. I would prefer to see an exhibit at a sardine factory. Oh wait, I did.
I know. I know. Crowds should be expected for blockbuster exhibits like Faces of Impressionism. Too many patrons is a good problem for the museum. But it’s a bad problem for patrons.
The gallery was packed. People were all standing around with blank looks on their faces while they all listened to the same audio tour (I never take the audio tour). You could tell most of them wanted to be somewhere else. It was like an episode of Dr. Who where all the people stop to receive a daily upload through their earpieces and when it’s done they move again. Creepy.
The new Renzo Piano Pavillion has no flow. It has no space. It has no personality. And worst of all, it has no room. Faces of Impressionism felt like being in a closet. In contrast, the Louis Kahn Building with the Kimbell’s permanent collection felt like being on a football field. Why would the Kimbell not put this blockbuster exhibit where they have room? Or better yet, why didn’t the Kimbell use both of the galleries in the Renzo Piano Pavillon for this exhibit? Surely the Egyptian art would have fit in the Kahn building too.
Like I said, the exhibit has no flow. There is too much to see in every direction and patrons don’t know where to start. The Kimbell should take a few notes from IKEA. Maybe a maze is the answer.
The worst part of the layout was putting van Gogh’s portrait in a corner. Yes, I said a corner. Why wasn’t the jewel of the entire exhibit on an easily accessible wall all by itself? Was the museum afraid patrons would actually see it? Were they worried people with audio tours would have a place to stand and see one of van Gogh’s thirty selfies?
I’m sure by now I sound like a real whiner, but if you paid $18 to see a movie and could not see the screen because of all the people in the way, wouldn’t you ask for your money back? Well, that’s exactly what I did on my first visit to see Faces of Impressionism. I asked for my money back. After driving all the way across Dallas / Fort Worth with my family, we could not see or enjoy any of the art.
And when I asked for my money back, the Kimbell said they don’t do refunds.
What! Who doesn’t do refunds?
They didn’t have any problem taking my money, surely they can reverse the process. This wasn’t a charitable donation. I paid to see art. Why can’t you give my money back? Who knows? Museum policy.
Sadly, they gave me vouchers to see the exhibit at a later date. sigh.
Well, that was my first visit to see Faces of Impressionism. Needless to say, I did try to see the art again the following weekend. I was hoping for a much smaller crowd and a chance for a little one-on-one time with these masterpieces. Alas, I had no such luck. If there’s one thing the Kimbell knows how to do, it’s how to take money and cram people into a small gallery.
My second visit was no better than the first. My only saving grace was not bringing my darling spouse to see Over Crowded Museum Horror Part II. My youngling and I dodged in and out of crowds to see the works. Forget about reading titles and descriptions. We were lucky just to see the some of the paintings. Yes, we did see van Gogh’s self portrait. And it is beautiful.
If you still feel the need to see Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay at the Kimbell Art Museum before it closes January 25th, I highly recommend going during off hours. You know, when people like yourself are at work, or sleeping, or watching playoff games, etc. Otherwise, You should see them in Paris.