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FROM THIS EPISODE

Shocking News: Nudity Beats Modesty
by Edward Goldman

Rain or shine I'm trying to do my best to find a new and engaging show in town that would be interesting to talk about. But this time I was defeated, not so much by the weather but by the Christmas. Most of the galleries were closed and the only museum show, which I hadn't seen yet, proved to be a disappointment.

I was looking forward to the Norton Simon Museum's exhibition "Lost but Found" which presents assemblage, collage and sculpture, from the museum's permanent collection, covering most of the 20th Century. But no matter how good this museum's permanent collection may be, there is a sense of tiredness in seeing the same pieces again and again, presented in various contexts, all in recent years. One would hope that the Norton Simon Museum might find a way to step out of the glorious cocoon of a private foundation and try to become more than just a museum in name only. It needs to get involved in the outside world by exchanging exhibitions with other institutions in order to stir things up, therefore bringing some fresh air and new ideas home. Without that, this museum's wonderful collection threatens to be trapped in the past, like a rare insect embedded in amber.

Not finding any other especially appealing exhibitions, I returned to my files in search of some nuggets of wisdom. So bear with me.

In the December issue of The Art Newspaper there is an article entitled, "Can Art Reduce Your Blood Pressure?" One London hospital decided to spend close to a half a million dollars on works of art paid for with private donations because "there is evidence that, art will speed patients' recovery by improving their spirits" and to "diminish their stress level." It goes on to say that "patients exposed to 'emotionally appropriate works of art' were less anxious, requested less medication and recovered more quickly post-operation." How about that? In my own experience, I can attest that the extensive art collection in our own Cedars Sinai Hospital helped me a lot in coping with my mother's illness while she was a patient there.

On a lighter note, here is a quote from the May issue of The Art News magazine, which reveals a rather hilarious and slightly embarrassing truth behind the smoke and mirrors of the art scene, where private collectors are willing to depart with millions of dollars to acquire the objects of their desire. "Experts say, collectors will spend more for a portrait of an attractive young woman than for a portrait of a man or a woman of a certain age. Horizontal canvasses appeal to buyers more than vertical ones. Landscapes with water sell better than those without. Nudity beats modesty. And bright colors trump paler ones." So, in spite of millions of years of evolution, it seems to me that our unconscious responses to art remain hard-wired in our animal psyche, much like that of a Pavlovian dog. As for myself, I can only hope that I will continue to bark up the right tree. Happy New Year.

"Lost but Found"
November 5, 2004-March 28, 2005
Norton Simon Museum
411 West Colorado
Pasadena, CA
Telephone: 626-449-6840

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