Most Americans are used to visiting museums and galleries where there is one work of art hung in each horizontal slot, with a descriptive plaque listing the artist, date and other information. This is great if you are the creator of the art work being shown – a visitors attention is focused on your work, without distractions. A Caravaggio at the Art institute in Chicago gets the largest portion of an entire wall, along with a sitting bench for long-term viewers.  But there is a huge inventory of art in the warehouse that is not being displayed and may not be for years. In smaller galleries, there are works of excellant artists that do not get seen by the public. Sometimes artists are even tempted to pay for their own gallery space.

The single horizontal painting approach is not the historical salon-style approach, where paintings are hung from floor to ceiling, perhaps sorted by theme or size, and there are at least two museums in the US who have decided to bring back this salon-style display.  One is the Sterling and Francine Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachussetts. The other is the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.  These museums have discovered that when they display salon-style, far more works of art get shown to the public, and far fewer galleries must be built and named after long-sought-out corporate donors.  Perhaps there is something to be learned here.  What if smaller galleries in the US also adopted the salon-style approach.  Would it not allow for more artists to get the exposure they deserve?  So often, art competitions are limited by display space.  Shouldn’t the contest be decided on the quality of art rather than the size of the building? Bring back the salon-style art galleries!

The painting is by Edouard Dantan,  Un Coin du Salon en 1880.