The Hirshhorn Museum
Corner of 7th St. and Independence Ave. NW
Ms. Hen visited the Hirshhorn Museum on a rainy Tuesday in time for a guided tour. The docent directing the tour, Janet, told Ms. Hen that she likes to give interactive tours, having each person give an opinion and talk about the art and what it makes that person think. Only one other person went on the tour with Ms. Hen, a man from Poland who told Janet he was studying art history.
The first piece they looked at was a photograph by an artist named Hiroshi Sugimoto. It showed a picture of an ornate old-fashioned theater with a glowing light where the screen would be. Ms. Hen told the guide that it made her think the artist was trying to say that the movies are a void and he contrasted it with a picture of a beautiful theater. The art history student said he had seen photos like these before.
Janet said that it was an entire film exposed and that’s where the glowing light came from. She said she didn’t know if it was supposed to be a political statement of the movies. But she said the artist wanted to show old theaters that used to be in their glory contrasted with the bright light of an entire film.
The next piece the group looked at was a bunch of what looked like rocks on the floor. Janet asked Ms. Hen what she thought it was supposed to be. Ms. Hen said it looked like it could be bones from animals placed in a circle that meant the circle of life. She also said that it reminded her of pieces of ceramic cows because she used to collect cows.
Janet said they were actually pieces of flint that the artist Richard Long picked up on his walks in the countryside in England. She explained he is an environmental artist and makes art from the natural world. Janet told the group that he sent the stones in a box and told the curator that he wanted them formed in a circle with a nine-foot diameter. Somehow, no matter how they displayed them, they always came out circle with a nine-foot diameter.
The group looked at a piece of art with a mannequin sitting at a desk dressed in African print 16th century period clothes. Ms. Hen cheated a little and looked at the title of the piece, THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT. She told Janet it was ironic it was called that and the model didn’t have a head.
It turned out that this artist, Yinka Shonibare is famous for his art with models of people with no heads. He is a political artist from Africa living in England and makes statements about the history of Europe and Africa by making art like this.
The group looked at another piece of art that was simply the words A RUBBER BALL THROWN TO THE SEA written in large blue letters on a wall, by artist Lawrence Weiner. Janet told Ms. Hen and the art history student to close their eyes and explain what they saw. Ms. Hen said the way it was written was like the ball was bouncing. They also looked at the words on the windows that said REDUCED backwards and forwards. Ms. Hen said it make her think that what was in the museum was reduced and also what was outside was reduced, that it wasn’t worth anything anymore. Janet told them that The National Archives was outside the window and that might have been what was thought to be reduced, like it was on sale.
Ms. Hen doesn’t usually go on tours of art museums, but she really liked this tour. She enjoyed thinking about the art and explaining what she thought of it. It was a clever way to do a tour. She went to this museum on a whim; she wasn’t planning on it, but she was glad she did. She liked being surrounded by things that were strange, because she’s a strange hen that likes art.