Museums as a Space for Meditation

October 15, 2020

by apaparis

I’ve always enjoyed going to museums. With a mother who is an art historian, museums were automatically a big part of my life. Every time we traveled; museums were the first on the list of things to see. And when new exhibitions came to Lisbon, Portugal, we would often make it a priority to go as a family. It was only when I moved to the US and started going to New York City with friends, a couple times a semester, that I realized how much I valued museum outings. And my friends noticed it too. They’d point out my excitement over what we would learn about the objects, sculptures or paintings we were seeing. I realized I could spend hours in museums and that walking around them gave me a sense of comfort and peace.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I arrived in Paris and the list of museums seemed infinite. I’ve gone to museums alone and with friends. Each visit has given me new knowledge of a specific artist or time period or movement. And I have also learned that sometimes going to a museum alone is ideal because you can move at your own pace and think about what kind of art you enjoy. I’ve started playing a game sometimes where I try to guess certain painting’s artists before I look at their label. But, going to a museum with a friend can also be a great way to catch up on each other’s lives and to share what art moves you most. Last week, I went to a Cindy Sherman exhibit with a friend and we took two hours to complete it! We moved between reading the exhibition’s texts and looking at Cindy Sherman’s photographs, and talking about what we had done the previous weekend and updating each other on our lives.

This last Sunday, I visited the Musée de l’Orangerie. It’s located in the Jardins des Tuileries, in central Paris. The Musée de l’Orangerie is famous for Claude Monet’s Water Lilies murals. These are eight murals that Monet painted in his house in Giverny, which he then donated to the museum. He specifically designed the two rooms that would house the murals into oval shapes, so you feel enveloped by the Water Lilies. As you walk in, there is a sign that asks visitors to be silent, as Monet intended this to be a space of meditation. I was immediately very interested by this. Monet moved to Giverny in his early 40s because he valued nature and was clearly captivated by its beauty. The creation of these two rooms filled with impressionist ponds and water lilies, was Monet’s way of giving back to Paris’s museum goers, by allowing them some peace, comfort and space to think. I very much appreciated this and realized that what Monet intended to give visitors with his Water Lilies, was the same thing I seek every time I go to a museum: to clear my head and to appreciate beautiful art without worrying about what is happening outside the museum walls.

About the author:

Hi, I’m Helena! I’m a Junior at Yale, hoping to spend the year in Paris if Covid-19 will let me. I am Portuguese, but have lived in India, Brazil and Wales before living in New Haven and Paris. I study Global Affairs at Yale and hope to have a career working to solve our most pressing agricultural and environmental issues. My favorite classes in Paris are Sociology of Defiance and Gender Studies at Université Paris 8.

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