Art is fascinating for its tendency to stimulate big issues from supposed subtleties. For example, when you look at a work of art in a museum, how conscious are you of the glowing light fixtures, the other passing viewers, or even your own image reflected in front of the intended object of view? An artwork’s meaning—what it means to its creator and what it means to its viewers—can be dramatically changed by something as simple as a piece of glass. Anna Ficek from Hyperallergic discusses some of the effects of placing a protective layer of glass between the artwork and the viewer, including the removal of the artist through the reflection (both physical and mental) of the spectator, the designation of social status based on the privilege of seeing a work without the glass’s interception, and the ways in which contemporary artists are trying to challenge the typical separation between artwork and viewer.
Some may argue that reflections in the protective glass mean nothing, and that its practical purpose does not warrant such philosophical musings; but if art—and especially, in this case, visual art—is meant for viewing, then perhaps everything in that view should be taken into consideration. What do you see when you see art?