You’re the art critic at the Currier’s ‘Looking Together’ program

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by John Angelo

MArisol scaled
Spend some quality time with “The Family” by Marisol on March 24.  Photo/Currier Museum of Art

Timely WriterManchester’s Currier Museum of Art Tour and Volunteer Manager Carolin Sanchez detailed the museum’s Looking Together program to me on a recent afternoon. It features a closer look at a single piece of art every Saturday and Sunday at both 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.

“Looking Together is not so much about getting a rundown of the artistic history of a piece,” Sanchez said. “Looking Together is really what the name says. It’s very much related to inviting guests to take time to spend 15 minutes with one work of art.”

Docents, who are all volunteers, choose the pieces featured in Looking Together. Only a fraction of the Currier’s 14,000 works of art are displayed at any one time. The docents have much to choose from. The program started at the Currier in 2021 and it comes out of the slow art movement. The eye of the beholder favors quality over quantity.

“Research says that in general people spend 15 to 30 seconds on one work of art when they visit a museum,” Sanchez explained. “This is like walking through a library and you walk along the shelves and afterward you say ‘I’ve read 100 books’ because you’ve scanned the titles of those books. Looking Together really wants to bring that sense of intentionally looking and discovering and making the work your own by spending more time with it.”

van Gogh. Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather 1882 on loan 2.2024 wo frame
“The Beach at Scheveningen,” an early work by Vincent Van Gogh. Photo/Currier Museum of Art

The docent gets pointers from the guests. What do you see and where do you see it?

“The idea is not to say I went to the Currier today, I saw “Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather” by Van Gogh, and now I know everything about that work,” Sanchez said. “But I will know what it looked like and what I discovered. How did the sails look, the people on the beach, and the colors? What colors did he use? The program itself is centered on what do the guests see, and they leave with more information than they came with but they won’t get a 15-minute lecture.”

“It’s been very influential,” Sanchez continued. “This format has kind of replaced our Classic Highlights tours, which was a tour of six works and you just kind of walked around. There’s been a big shift in the museum world to go away from the lecture style and really be interactive. Then you will leave with what you said more than what somebody else told you.”

Upcoming Looking Together offerings are Henri Matisse’s “Seated Nude” (March 10), Vincent Van Gogh’s “Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather” (March 16) and Morisol’s “The Family” (March 24). Looking Together is free with general admission.

Matisse Seated Nude scaled
I took a closer look at “Seated Nude” by Henri Matisse. You can, too, on March 10. Photo/Currier Museum of Art

For the record, I saw hints of Van Gogh’s eventually lighter palette in the edge of the wave and in the people on the beach in “Beach at Scheveningen.” This is an early Van Gogh. His work would explode with light once he discovered Paris.

In “Seated Nude” I saw the sum of the parts. The subject is muscular and while the face is feminine the breasts look like an afterthought. Sanchez pointed out the uncomfortable pose. Stomach muscles required.

My initial impression of “The Family” was the box shape of both the subjects and the entire piece. I thought of architectural critics claiming that American houses feature box-shaped rooms in box-shaped houses. Houses made of ticky-tack.


About this Author

John Angelo

John Angelo’s humor has appeared in “Publisher’s Weekly,” “Writer’s Digest,” and “American Bookseller.” He is a frequent contributor to the “New Hampshire Business Review.” For a Christmas concert at his Catholic grammar school, the nuns told him to mouth the words and that he’d better not make a sound under any circumstances.