National Gallery provides a personal tour

Danielle Agostini, Contributing Writer

“National Gallery,” a documentary directed by Frederick Wiseman, premiered downtown on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. The film provided audience members with a personal tour of beautiful artwork at one of the most prestigious art institutions in the world.

The film makes the audience feel like they are physically at the National Gallery museum, admiring amazing artwork from some of the most well-known artists in historic and modern times.

Wiseman takes the audience on a virtual journey throughout the museum, located at the northern end of Trafalgar Square in London, in which they are immersed in the art and stories behind it.

Art is something that is admired by many people, yet often overlooked. As an art history major, I could not appreciate enough a documentary that allows people to look at art. There are no extreme special effects or explanatory texts to sidetrack the viewer; the film lets the viewer take pleasure in focusing on the art, something that can be difficult for people to do considering how distracting society is today. 

The documentary primarily discusses form, content, and context of the works. What is different about this film is that Wiseman does not only discuss the art, he also includes conversations going on between others in the museums. The theatre audience got to hear conversation by museumgoers, whether it was about the composition of Camille Pissarro’s cityscape or discussion of a still life. This element gave viewers the opportunity to listen in on conversations by non-professionals walking around the museum.

Wiseman also has the audience really think about the history behind the National Gallery. John Julius Angerstein, a wealthy art patron, was able to start the foundation of the National Gallery’s collection due to the fortune gained from the Grenada slave estates. While this may only seem like a small historical fact, Wiseman subtly argues that human action and desire is always behind any story of art, and this ironically isn’t always quite as beautiful as the art itself. Despite that more serious note, all the stories that Wiseman told were wonderful to listen to and quite moving.

“National Gallery” was a fascinating documentary that kept me attentively on my toes. This wasn’t your average Hollywood cinematic production with cheesy humor or over-the-top effects, but an honest, thought-provoking film that simply shared the values of art with an audience.

The interaction I had with the documentary and the pieces captured my curiosity and pulled me into the world of art. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and recommend it to everyone, art addict like myself, or not.

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