Beyond the painting: extending the perception of the artwork

As suggested by the name, visual arts has always involved the viewer through one sense, the sight: in front of a painting or a sculpture, we can’t do anything but watch. Delighted, enraptured, emotionally involved, but exclusively through our eyes.


A limit that prevents the pleasure of appreciating art to those who can’t see. This reflection prompted the curators of the Museum Del Prado of Madrid to design and set up an innovative temporary exhibition dedicated to blind people.


“Hoy toca el Prado”, is the title of the exhibition that will take place until 28th June 2015, a first step to make some of the greatest artworks accessible also to a public visually impaired. Six of the most representative works of the museum have been digital printed to represent in a tridimensional way the figures. In this way, through touch (texts in braille, audioguides and opaque glasses) non-sighted visitors will be able to imagine Correggio, Velàzquez, Goya, Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco and Van der Hamen’s works.


The example of the Museum del Prado however, is not an isolated attempt. If the initiative of the Spanish museum was ideated with the goal of bringing the thrill of art even to those who, until now, haven’t been able to live it, there are many other experiments to involve all five senses of the human body in the perception of an artwork.


In this direction, the exhibition organized by the Museum Tinguely in Basel entitled “La Belle Haleine – The Scent of Art “, is an original attempt to associate the sense of smell to art. On display until May 17, 2015, the exhibition explores the interdisciplinary theme of “the scent of art” in all its aspects, artistic, scientific and cultural.


Through installations, drawings, videos, photos and works by the likes of Tinguely, Duchamp, Spoerri and many others, visitors will be lead to the discovery of the olfactory art: what if our nose suddenly plays a major role in the aesthetics perception of a work? Can scent be used as a means of artistic and creative expression? What is the smell of art?


These are some of the questions that will find answer through an exhibition path expanded for over 1200 square meters. “La Belle Haleine” is just the first of a series of exhibitions already scheduled for the next years, through which the Museum Tinguely will deal with the emblematic issue of the five senses, their representation and relationship with the art of the Twentieth century.


If increasing the perception of paintings and sculptures to all senses helps to expand the audience who can appreciate those works, then, in the current effort of many museums towards this goal are also included all the initiatives aimed at bringing to art a special public, which needs an alternative and original approach, such as children.


All the greatest museums offer today itineraries for children, in which the watchwords are involvement and interaction. The MUBA – Children’s Museum of Milan (www.muba.it), opened in January 2014, is the highest expression of this type of vision, taking shape as a permanent center dedicated to cultural and artistic projects for childhood: a space of aggregation for children, families and schools, in which entertainment and fun go together with the promotion of art through playful exhibitions, workshops and many other initiatives in order to accustom the future generations to the beauty and creativity from an early age.


Concerning us, we have always tried to propose an alternative and original visit during our exhibitions, compared to the traditional style: that’s what we did last year, on the occasion of the exhibition dedicated to Carl Walter Liner, introducing a special chromotherapic visit, in which the colors of the works became an occasion for a moment of meditation, with the involvement of all the five senses: scented small bags combined to the color of each room, introduced the emotions of the works to an olfactory level, while music created the right atmosphere to getting deeply in touch, not in a purely rational way, with the paintings.


We will do it again this year, accompanying the exhibition of François Gall with live music from a grand piano.And we constantly do it thanks to our educational workshops, attended every year are by dozens of children and schools from the Ticino area, who come to learn art through game and interaction.

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