A few weeks ago I went to see an exhibition of the London Royal Academy of Arts at the Bendigo Art Gallery. Bendigo is an historical town in central Victoria, it was one of the most significant town during the gold rush and there are lots of beautiful heritage buildings that testify the splendour of those early years. The art gallery is well respected and its exhibition are usually very popular and well attended.
I rarely go to art exhibitions and I am certainly no art critic but I do like some of the English masters and I decided to go and have a look.
The gallery was small and intimate, a few rooms full of people, even if it was only ten on a monday morning, looking with interest at the paintings. I joined the crowd and wandered around the gallery, immersing myself in the atmosphere. I looked at some of the work, I studied the beautiful images and found myself been drawn into the landscapes. I chatted with a lovely lady about the waves and the rough sea represented in one of the pictures. How real it looked and how you could almost feel engulfed by the water. I thought I was having a good time, enjoying my experience when all of a sudden I started to think: but where are the famous ones? This is certainly not to be compared to one of the european galleries!
And the magic was broken. I became judgemental and quite critical of the masterpieces on display. Only one Millais? I expected so much more. And a whole room dedicated to Australian painters? Why can’t we have more Europeans?
The day after I spoke to a friend who had also been to the exhibition and I told her my thoughts. Her reply made me think: “You Europeans are spoilt, always expecting the Uffizi”. There is definitely some truth in her statement. I was enjoying the exhibition until my expectation changed and I started to compare it to Europe.
Am I spoilt or am I trying to cling on to something I feel I have lost? Or am I simply a European snob?