|Projet d’aménagement de la Grande Galerie du Louvre, Robert Hubert, 1796 (source)
||Francis Bacon Studio, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane (source)
Prior to 1793 and the opening of the Louvre, in Paris, to the general public for three days of each ‘décade’ (the French Republic had at the time adopted a ten day work week), there were no public spaces reserved for the viewing of artifacts in the western world. Only the wealthy could afford to collect art, and while the upper classes were at times invited to view these private collections, the lower classes had no such opportunity (though they did have limited exposure to ecclesiastic artifacts). The opening of the Louvre, a symbolic gesture following the French Revolution, emphasized a shift in power from the ruling classes to the working classes. This same emphasis on equal access, fueled the construction of new museums in America during the 19th century.
With the foundation of the Smithsonian Institute, in the 1850’s, in Washington DC, the US government set about constructing a series of museums along the Washington Mall, which to this day, effectively function as extensions of the public realm—they are free of charge and of hassle. There are no ticketing booths, and aside from the bricks and mortar that shelter the artifacts, there is no delineation between park space and museum space. The Smithsonian Institute’s continued insistence on maintaining the museums as genuine public spaces is noble.
In order to pay for the museum boom of the past ten years, ticket prices at many government funded collections have skyrocketed. The recent 276 million dollar Gehry addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, forced a rise in ticket prices from $15 to $18. In the process, a substantial portion of the very public that funded the museum, and its expansion, has been denied entrance. Of course, if their lax schedules allow, the proletariat can still visit the museum for free on ‘Wednesday evenings from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. (Permanent Collection only. Excludes surcharged exhibitions.)’
E. Sean Bailey
In 1998 Francis Bacon’s studio at 7 Reece Mews in London was donated in its entirety to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. A team of ten archaeologists and conservators spent three years dismantling the room, meticulously cataloging its 75,000 items and transporting them to Ireland. The studio was then reconstructed in Hugh Lane over a period of three years, with every detail of Bacon’s chaotic workspace faithfully recreated.
The studio reveals the space of a collector, chock full of artists materials including paints, brushes, stencils, scraps of corduroy pants and cashmere sweaters. This was in addition to visual sources in the form of photographs, illustrations, books, catalogs, and magazines. Also included in the studio’s inventory were seventy works on paper and one hundred slashed canvases.
Here the viewer of art gets a window into a world that that was not intended to be seen. A place where they may gain a better understanding into the physical context in which Bacon’s work was produced. As a space that reveals another dimension of the artist’s neuroses, an obsessive collection within a room, becomes a room which itself is part of a collection.
Erandi de Silva