Museums are free… most of them sometimes, some of them always

Even museums, for me one of the most globalized and similar institutions in this world, are a bit different to what I am used to in Germany. You don’t believe it? Everything starts with the fact that admission to many Brazilian museums is free on one day of the week. Now since this is Brazil I have never understood which day it is, but it seems, that different museums have different days of the week. How awesome is that? Unfortunately I did not go to a lot of museums since moving to Brazil, but so far I’ve seen some impressive exhibitions with pictures from Sebastão Salgado, one about the ZERO-movement and another one about modern art and poetry – and I did not have to pay for any them! For me state financed institutions such as museums have the purpose to educate and to broaden the mind of the public, so I think that entrance should be free every day, and I am very happy to see that in Brazil this is a little bit true.

Art is not a religion

But there are two other things that stroke me as beautifully odd when I went to the museums. First there is this rather relaxed and playful atmosphere. Many times there were groups of children, maybe school classes, in the museum. And while in Germany you often still have this aura of holiness in museums, Brazilians seem to treat it with a lot less respect. And I highly appreciate this. I loved to see the kids sitting in front of one awesome picture of Salgado and hear the teacher talk about the Indians of Brazil. Or people talking freely about how they can appreciate (or not) an abstract picture – all of it without worrying too much about showing a lack of knowledge in art history. Very nice.

You can take pictures

The other aspect appeared to me when I went to see the ZERO exhibition in São Paulo. I was curious to for some classical German Avantgarde and to see how I would react to it. I have to admit: if felt strange to see the formalistic experiments of this German art group from the 1960s in this part of the world. Familiar but foreign at the same time. But what struck me as odd was what happened when I entered the exhibition at the Pinacoteca in São Paulo. Because every visitor entering the exhibition was kindly informed by one of the warders that taking pictures was only allowed in two rooms of the exhibition. I could not help but think: This is so German!

In Germany taking pictures is prohibited in most (art) museums and you will be remembered of this by the museum warder in the usual friendly way of Germans. Some people say it’s a copyright issue, other museums want to earn extra money by selling permits to take pictures with admission. I always found it unpleasant and disagreeable and I never understood why I could take as many pictures as I want at the Biennale in Venice but not in Germany. In Brazil taking pictures in museums is usually not a problem, so when I entered the exhibition and was informed by the warder, I could not help but feel a little bit annoyed by the Germanness. The exhibition itself was not very big and ok. And the picture you see shows “Lichtregen” (rain of light), a work by Günther Uecker from 1966, another example of the playful approach to material of this group. Nothing very impressive, but a nice piece of work – and allowed to be photographed.

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