Why I Love Art Museums

In the permanent galleries of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum, there is one of Monet’s Water Lilies. I’ve seen the painting countless times, but every time I look down the corridor that leads to it, I feel as though I’m seeing it for the first time. I get lost in the loose brushstrokes and delicate planes of color. I could stare at the work for hours.

Image source: Pexels

Monet and art in general always had a profound effect on me. I love history and understanding peoples and cultures, and art is history in its rawest form. It’s reactionary and emotional; you can read a textbook detailing historical events, but when observing the art of a historical period, you can see how people felt and interpret their work through the lens of today. I can see the visual and derive the meaning of the idea behind it without even needing to put it into words.

The feeling of being in an art museum is visceral. The space is simultaneously calming and chaotic, as everything is neatly framed and purposefully curated, but the art itself can be confrontational and provocative. I’ve grown up going to as many museums as possible since my mom is a professor of art history and previously a gallery curator. As a result, I’ve developed a strong connection to and love of museums over a long period of time. 

The Manetti-Shrem Museum is my favorite place on the UC Davis campus because it’s just like the San Francisco museums I grew up going to ─ a calming, inspiring, and beautiful space. It’s like a little oasis on campus, the space is sleek and modern amidst the rural feeling of Davis. The courtyard is my favorite place on campus to study; it’s quiet but not suffocating, and you’re surrounded by beautiful trees and sculptures!

Image source: Iwan Baan

Like the art in the galleries, there is often so much more to the museums themselves than what meets the eye. The architecture and curation of the galleries are often extremely well thought out. In fact, their design could be a work of art itself. The structure over the Manetti-Shrem entrance is made of white steel beams, but the beams in different sections of the awning vary in how far apart they are. This creates a highly interesting effect, where the shadows cast by the awning are of different opacities and shade. The varying shadows on the ground create a greyscale on the concrete.

I love art history because it is engaging, relevant, and fun to unpack. I love museums themselves because they’re calming and peaceful, and you can get lost in the art itself. It’s such a fun pastime and I feel lucky to go to a school that has a world-class art museum on campus.