Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Glaring Problem at the Met

 After weeks of procrastination, i finally got a chance to see the the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum today. And man, am I glad I went. They had his major masterpieces, studies, memorabilia from his epically messy studio, and so much more.  The show really shows the breadth of his work, explains some of his influences, and makes clear who was influenced by Bacon.  Basically, I loved it except for one tragically major problem: glare.

All the paintings were behind glass, which is in general not my favorite way to look at work, but can be important for conservation and safety.  Unfortunately, Bacon's work, with is subtle darks, really suffered from this.  In general, I'd much rather have to stand back a foot or two and actually be able to see the work I'm looking at than be able to get really close, but be blinded by glare, but this issue was particularly problematic at the Bacon show.

I'm certainly not trying to suggest we throw all caution to the wind at major museums, and put great works of art in danger of being damaged.  I'm not sure exactly why these paintings were all behind glass, and do realize there could be a very good reason for it.  Unfortunately, it made an otherwise amazing show difficult to view.  Also, it was really hot and smelled like sweaty New Yorkers in the first few galleries, but that's another issue all together.


  1. Francis Bacon preferred to put most of his work behind glass. He had his quirks. Im afraid Im not going to make this show, I hope it travels to DC and offers me a 2nd chance.

  2. Glass doesn't usually complement anyone's paintings, but when it comes to black backgrounds it should absolutely be against the rules. The thought of such a thing is horrid- especially when it comes to an artist as multi-dimensional as Francis Bacon.

    It's interesting about Bacon choosing to put his work behind glass, however. I wonder why he would do that...

  3. Huh, I didn't know that about Bacon...that is interesting because he's known for being so messy, you wouldn't think he'd be worried about glass protecting the work.

    And hopefully the show will travel around because it's really wonderful!

  4. I'm surprised they wouldn't use some kind of anti-reflective glass, such as TruVue's "Museum" brand glazing. Perhaps the glass you saw were the originally installed lites from the time the piece was made. They may have decided not to disturb the original fit due to conservation concerns, or due to COST- retrofitting several large artworks with Museum glass could be extremely expensive.