Visiting a museum can be frustrating: imagine that you don’t really know what’s inside. Ancient art, old paintings, sculptures from unknown cultures. It can be really frustrating and boring.
I can’t honestly say that about the magnificient Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. Giovanni Bellini, Gianbattista Tiepolo, Giorgione, Veronese, Jheronimus Bosch, you name them, they’re there. In any other country they’d build a whole museum around a single one of these many paintings and there in Venice they have tens of them. Walking and hanging and wandering through its halls can be really mind-blowing, I promise.
Nonetheless there’s a chance you wouldn’t enjoy it: maybe you don’t like arts, ancient arts oh no please. Or, as said before, you don’t really know much about it and just got bored.
I wasn’t bored at all few days ago at the Accademia but I realized after half an hour that I wasn’t actually staring at the whole painting. I was looking for hands. I saw pale hands, slick and slim hands, fat hands, all superbly painted. I was suddenly amazed by the quality of these hands like it was the first time I saw hands on an old painting. Did they really have hands centuries ago? I couldn’t believe it.
Simply put, this is another way of visiting a museum: focus on a single detail and try to follow it through the whole exposition. It works pretty well in art museum like this, maybe less in contemporary art galleries (what can you really focus on at an abstract art exposition? Colors maybe).
Marco Marziale, La cena di Emmaus, 1500 ca.
Once I listened to a pianist saying that a good way to listen to the music, especially classic music, is to follow the cello. Spot it and try to follow. At the beginning you’d been thinking you’re not paying enough attention to all the rest but suddenly you realize that you are actually listening much better the whole thing.
Looking at small details in a painting is like that: to understand and find out what really matters in art. Small things that apparently don’t matter. Take them away and the whole picture lacks something. Something really important: details build the broad experience. Details are the cello we should sometimes follow. Maybe they won’t explain arts but they can be really fun. And beautiful, like these hands at the Gallerie dell’Accademia.