PRINT Summer 2010

R. H. Quaytman

THE MUSEUM RECITED: The museum was a method—a method of memory. If I remember, the museum was a palace that looked out onto the garden of the nineteenth century, away from Europe’s tectonic plate. The glass in its windows was thick and the frames made of wood. Who described the museum this way? “. . . No people allowed. One plays here every day until the end of the world.” The museum was seen only by the guards—and by old women and children. They learned how to memorize and to understand how the sky is painted in Holland, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and Spain. And wasn’t it true that Bouguereau was forgotten in spite of the museum’s leaden delays?

The guard in the Russian Museum is an old woman. She spins Duchamp’s bicycle wheel and laughs and laughs while, in the courtyard, preparators unload the Warhol Brillo boxes that the curator, an esteemed man, has forged. The Malevichs have been hidden for decades in the basement. My paintings are hung awkwardly from metal rods that come down from the ceiling. Before, the director had lifted up the skirt on Degas’s Petite danseuse for my amusement. Afterward I find my way alone to the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz on a drizzly day. The name itself looks like it’s in the rain. A small museum survived what millions could not. In the dark town house of the lost textile magnate, Kobro, Strzemiński, and Stażewski made their own modern art museum in 1931 with donations from their friends across Europe. Was it the word Muzeum that memorized them so I can recite them? Yes, it was.