Art Museum as a Ritual
Duncan begins her article, “The Art Museum as Ritual,” by comparing art museums to religious/ceremonial spaces, not only in architectural design but also in their purpose. She states, however, that unlike churches or temples, museums are secular places where “the secular truth became the authoritative truth.” Thus, a separation of church and state came to be an, as Duncan states, “religion…kept its authority only for voluntary believers.” She then goes on to the differences between secular and religious entities, stating that in the secular/religious terms of our culture, ritual and museum are adversative. However, she argues that all secular places have rituality behind their purpose. “The ritual character of museums is experienced in terms of the kind of attention one brings to it and the quality of its time and space.” Just as in churches or temples, one is expected to behave in a serene and respectful manner when in a museum. In terms of rituality of museums, it is the visitors who enact the ritual, and the museum itself serves to set the stage for those performing the ritual. Museums, as early medieval cathedrals, have architectural details that allow the flow of a continuous narrative that is meant to be followed by those who are among them. Just as rituals, museums have a set purpose of being beneficial visual experiences. Duncan’s description of museums as rituals cannot be applied to all museums, seeing as how she describes the purpose of museums to serve as a form of enlightenment for the viewer. Depending on the museum and the visitor, this purpose might not always be served. However, the Blanton Museum does a fine job of meticulously providing its visitors with a sense of spiritual accomplishment as they walk in and out of its majestic doors.
The location of the Blanton Museum is on the outskirts of campus, which gives it a sense of reclusion from what could be one’s “every-day walk through campus.” However, this should...
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