National Pavilion UAE - Reviewing Museums | by Sara Al Haddad
  • Reviewing Museums | by Sara Al Haddad

    The works exhibited at the Venice Biennale in its early editions were purchasable, despite that, both classical museums and the biennale tend to be non-commercial spaces; the differences between museums and the biennale are not that vast. A museum of classical works carries out a historical weight to the name it is associated with, and with a city such as Venice and its renaissance movement, it rather exemplifies its dissimilarity with the biennale. On the other hand, the Biennale’s reputation is rather associated with the countries that take part of the exhibition; the artists that are selected to exhibit; and on a larger scale, the number of visitors it greets. The biennale accommodates to its day and time, its history does not necessarily play a big role in its success.

    Having visited several museums in Venice (classical and modern), the concept of associating a museum to fit within the context of one era and its style is not always successful, neither it is always applicable. Museo Correr, a classical museum located in one of the most infamous piazza’s in Venice, San Marco. Greeted with the Napoleonic wing of imperial rooms where the empress Elizabeth of Austria has resided during her visit to Venice, one finds themselves wandering from one room to another of re-touched and maintained historic elements of what once used to be a dinning room; empresses’ bathroom and bed chamber, amongst few others. The rooms were recreated to fit into the idea of what was once there, acting as an aiding element for the visitors to easily visualize what is considered to be historic, or what could have been. The richness of the coloured walls, the bright velvet clothe and the good conditioned furniture give an impression of newness; the rooms did not fit my concept of what a classical museum would hosts. Regardless, the ‘museum’ acts as a tool to showcase what would have been classically historic through restorations and the assembly of collections. Why does the idea of classical works extend itself to allow and accept restored and re-assembled works, is what I find fascinating. Do these rooms really fit within the context of classically historic, or are they simply decorative and their decorative style is what pushes their aesthetics beyond decorative?

    I started writing this piece thinking museums and the biennale are very different, but the pragmatic approaches taken by either institution are not far apart. The biennale hosts contemporary artworks; many artworks that fall under the category of contemporary may not always be accepted by the vast majority as Art, per say. Visiting Museo Correr, apart from its other classical showcased artworks, I was not drawn into the idea of considering rooms and their arrangement to be classical, historical or museum material, without disregarding their historic relevance to the city.

    Is there an acting force that seeks to extend our understanding of what is to be acceptable to fall under Art and its subcategory genres, or is there an excessive need to associate things with Art, that may not necessary be art, but were rather driven with an artistic approach – is that still art? Could there be a lack of understanding from my part of what is a museum, what and how can it hosts different artworks under the same roof – is there a correlation between that and the lack of institutionalized museums in the UAE, and how can it rectify those perceptions and misunderstandings?

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