Aside from the most common question asked of the gallery attendant—“where’s the restroom?”—the next could easily be the empathetic concern, “do you stand all day?” Yes, but it’s not too bad. Working in a museum, I like to say, is heaven for the mind and hell for the feet.
For the stoic guard the day is filled with many splendors. Many of us are art lovers who wanted to be guards in the museum. Barring the attendant physical woes, being hemmed in with Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, and the many other great works that fill LACMA’s rich and eclectic collection is irresistible. Not to take away from the astute curators, the dedicated docents, and the army of people who make it all possible, but even they can’t imagine the unfettered hours on end at Matisse’s magical Tea party or the hypnotic color swirls of Leger’s Disks, or to turn and be face to face with the delicate, tenderly rendered Woman with Blue Veil by Picasso—an act of looking which could be repeated without end.
This is our living space. This is the upside of the coin, lessened in value only by our struggle to keep at bay that strange creeping casual indifference that is first cousin to repetition.
Doesn’t it get to look like wallpaper and furniture to you, standing in the galleries day in and day out? Well, maybe for some, but not for everyone. I believe that some of the art will go on speaking to you in spite of fatigue and familiarity. That being said, you are not quite alone within this silent drama, for the patrons are invariably asking questions, sometimes enlisting opinions or edging your enthusiasm. I find such engagement to be the cure-all.
Hylan Booker, Gallery Attendant
It’s fantastic to hear a guard’s perspective! I talk to guards all the time, but I’d imagine most visitors don’t suspect how much many guards know about the art they protect.
superb the best of the guards….
I’m quite humbled reading Hylan Booker’s deep and thoughtful reflections on what he sees as he stands guard and realize what superficial attention I give to most works of art as I wander through museums — a favorite pastime but one I will do much more consciously from now on. I look forward to sharing all his blog posts in the future and hope LACMA realizes what a treasure they have in him!