Disclaimer: I had to take an hour to cool down before writing this post. However, what I am about to write does not give justice to the disgust and rage I still feel about my night at the “La Nuit des Musees” 2016.
As an artist and a graduate of Art, I have developed a passion towards history of art and the contemporary art movements from WWI to nowadays. I have had the privilege to study art museums, galleries and curating abroad and visited many museums in the British capital and Europe.
Lebanon offers a lot when it comes to its art & culture, alas the general population is unaware of its rich heritage within its museums and galleries. I understand people have better things to chase and worry about than contemplate pieces of art from centuries ago.
“La Nuit des Musees” 2016 is an opportunity for everyone to visit specific museums and galleries for free one night only. And that night was today, April the 8th.
I started my tour at 5 sharp. I did not know what to expect but I was very eager to be part of it all. To my surprise, there were a lot of people queuing to enter museums and the shuttle were filled with people eager to go to their next destination. I was happy to see a lot of parents with their curious children in tow. When abroad, its a normal scenery to see children interested in art, however I wasn’t expecting the same in Lebanon. I was positively surprised and happy.
That state of mind dropped when I entered the National Museum. I am sure you are aware that National Museums worldwide hold very unique historical pieces that should not be touched (like any pieces of art exhibited anywhere). I am sure as well that you know that especially cordoned off pieces should be looked at from a distance. However, to my utter shock (is it shock really? was I expecting this deep down?) the citizens of this beloved country have no clue of these rules. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know the meaning of a cordoned off perimeter around a historical tomb. Nor do you need to be educated to restrain your child from poring his fingers in a miniature coliseum piece.
Two major scenes I witnessed turned my stomach inside out and made me head to the exit:
- A mother and father along their 4 year old daughter were looking around till they laid eyes on the throne of Astarte from the Hellenistic period, (picture this; a mini throne). Not only did they not lay eyes on the cordon surrounding the piece below their feet, but they placed their child on the throne for a picture. I was in shock!!! We had to rush to inform the guide as there were no security guys around. By the way I did not see any of the latter. Maybe they were outnumbered by the pouring of people but they should have known that from previous experiences. The same family went on and on taking pictures and touching pieces. I mean if you uneducated people need to take a picture to prove you’re participating in the event, why don’t you go and photoshop yourself in like wise sceneries from the internet!! (an act very common within some…).
- A dad was holding his son up high to give him the opportunity to pet a tomb and goofily froze to smile at the camera held by his wife. I don’t know what they were expecting; a genie to pop from the (bottle, scratch that) tomb???
Children were running everywhere unsupervised. Guides were hand full with people but doing a good damn job explaining each piece to their avid listeners. No security guards to be seen to contain the crowd.
As a passionate art lover I am happy to see Lebanese being educated to art. I encourage children to be exposed to art & culture. However after what I witnessed tonight, I think I can safely resume to my previous opinion of the Lebanese society; an ungrateful uneducated crowd that do not know the value of the heritage they have been left with nor a sense of appreciation to what they are being subjected to. If you need to take your child for the sake of a family outing (for free) then I do advise you to go to a park or at the corniche seaside and linger as long as you want.
I on the other hand will go back to enjoy some art sight seeing during the weekday peacefully and surrounded by like wise appreciative people.