Week 7 – Museums as a Sacred Space

” Museums, like churches and libraries, are designed to enhance specific activities — praying, reading, looking — through the manipulation of architecture, lighting, object placement and ritualized behavior.”

In the article, “Tuning Out Digital Buzz, for an Intimate Communication with Art,” written by Holland Cotter, Cotter makes a ton of points in the argument of illustrating the benefits with artworks in physical spaces rather than technological representations as “sufficient” replacement. She mentions the understanding of scale; the beauty of massive art works surrounding you. Also, to see the work in real life has the power to create physical inclinations, such as this humanistic need to reach out to the art piece or feeling the anxiety and gravity in a “Christ in Majesty With Symbols of the Four Evangelists” due to the way Christ is positioned on the wall. However, the quote that I have pasted above is something that stood out to me — this comparison to a museum with a church.

Over the summer, I was able to take the class “Jerusalem, the Holy City,” where we discuss the idea of sacred space in Jerusalem. The term “sacred space” can be defined as a physical realm that is not homogenous, something set apart, in a religious sense, from the profane world. A sacred space has the capacity to change one’s behavior as well. For example, for a believer, the church is a sacred place that is set apart from the street on which it stands. The sacred space of church the changes the person as he or she walks through the doors.

With this understanding and Cotter’s article, the physical implementation of a museum can immediately change the perceptions of a viewer — as not many people would take selfies with a page in an art book, yet would act differently if in the MoMA where the walls and lighting are staged perfectly for photo-taking. In a way, for art-lovers (much akin to religious believers) may find that the museum is a sacred space that is set apart from the rest of the world, and thus, the work within the confined spaces are just as sacred. When a piece is in a book page, it not only takes away from the details of the pieces, but the overall experience of separating the person you are when you walk on the street to the person you become when you walk past the double doors that enter into a gallery.