Sunday, October 29, 2006

There's Something About Mary... but I don't know what it is.

I went to the Uffizi gallery early this morning to beat the crowds – and I want to change my initial impressions of Florence from "ugly" to "mixed." Kind of like New York, the city just sucks when it's full of tourists – actually it sucks more than New York because most of the sidewalks are less than a foot wide and the fact that they're sidewalks doesn't really stop taxis from driving on them – but here at 7:45, when the city is just waking up, it's a pretty charming place to walk around. I don't have any photos from the Uffizi for reasons that are obvious to anyone who's into art conservation, but you shouldn't have too much trouble finding pictures of the exhibits online. In fact, my one biggest gripe about the museum is that the images you find online, or in your art history text, aren't obscured by your reflection in the bulletproof glass covering them. And I totally understand why they've got the glass there, but the artwork is priceless and they couldn't have splurged on glare-free glass?

The big theme at the Uffizi is the Virgin Mary, presented by a ton of different artists, many of whom I recognized from when I took art history back in high school, although I sort of forgot why they're important or why I should care. You just get that giddy familiarity feeling from seeing something you've studied, and I missed that feeling from the relatively obscure artwork in Venice's Accademia (with the exception of Veronese's Feast in the House of Levi and its amusing backstory). At the Uffizi, you've got the Virgin Mary as interpreted by Cimabue and Giotto – there's something important about the distinction between these two guys, but I can't recall what it is – Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and a bunch of other guys who obviously don't matter as much because no one named a Ninja Turtle after them. Caravaggio? Screw him.

Also cool are seeing Botticelli's surviving paintings (he destroyed most of his work in the Bonfire of the Vanities) in real life instead of tacked into some girl's dorm room.... But here's the problem: I don't really get art. I'd like to, but I don't know what I'm looking for, or why it's good, or why Ghiberti beat out Donatello for the commission to sculpt the Baptistry doors. It's not that everything looks the same, but it's like if I've seen one Venus, I've pretty much seen them all. So it didn't take too long before I turned from looking at great masterpieces of the canon of Western art to pointing at the naked women in the paintings and deciding which ones I'd fuck. I know, totally classy, but it's not exactly a new idea. I wish I'd thought of it sooner though, because then I might have paid attention in art hum.