Saturday, 5 June 2010

Arte italiana per il turismo

Un'altra allegoria?

Sienna, and another high place – but protected from the 400 steps of the tower over the Town Hall because Chiuso per problemi techici, following yesterday's thunderstorm.A few quid saved anyway, but soon made up for by the upper reaches of the never-completed rooftop of the Duomo's Baptistry which, taking account of the hill that it stands upon, is just as high above the level of the Piazza..

I didn't count the steps this time as I had something else to entertain my mind, the horrendous cost of admission to both attractions, even taking account of the generous old people's concessions in public museums (why is it that this is always offered immediately now, without my having to ask about it?). This line of thought was not merely a matter of inveterate meanness on my part. It stemmed from the mass of (largely ecclesiastical) art and artefacts on display here, for a sum, and the numbers, nature and behaviour of my fellow punters – in fact the whole touristic experience of Siena, San Giminiano and Volterra for a travelling tourist.

The whole situation is bonkers.

It provokes an uneasy feeling. The people are charming but the touristic art industry seems successfully self-fulfilling almost despite itself.

It does not have to advertise. Everybody knows that this part of Italy does art, and that art is indubitably 'a good thing'. Given that, they still pay up, seemingly whatever the cost and whatever the value for money. There are some wonderful things to be seen, not least the townscape and countryside (these of course are free), and the occasional masterpiece (not). But to my far-from-tutored eye a lot on view is rather second-division, or even perhaps better suited to reserve collections (certainly at the prices charged), of great interest perhaps to the specialist scholar but meaning nothing to Joe and Jo Public. Dare I say it – I think at times that  I was being ripped off. I could have judged better had the information provided been better – more labelling, more explanatory literature at both popular and scholarly levels, more publications in other than the home language.

From the viewpoint of the locals, of course, it must seem a great success. All that one has to do is display the remnants of the glories – and the not so glorious remnants – of yesteryear. Without the need to advertise, still the punters come, they gaze and they admire – uncritically – whatever they see. If they want to understand more deeply, sorry, they are disappointed. They may even come back for another such experience at some future date, as if glimpse upon glimpse, without serious, intervening study and maybe even living the life, will lead to enlightenment. There needs be nothing new, just conservation.

Un'altra allegoria - o sono io cinico?

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this posting. It is so very fitting and offers much food-for-thought with the school summer holidays approaching.

    I hope you are still enjoying the heavenly coffee.