Seeing is Believing

Art historian and museologist Julian Spalding finds nothing to beat looking carefully at historic objects in their original surroundings.

When I first saw the Pyramids I could have kicked myself. It wasn’t that I was disappointed – far from it. What I was annoyed about was that I hadn’t been to see them before. I thought I knew them. I’d read everything I could about them, and was so familiar with pictures of them, that I thought seeing them in the flesh would have nothing more to tell me. How wrong I was; they were a revelation.

I really don’t know why I was surprised. I’d gone into museums after university and art college because I wanted to see (and handle!) real artefacts. I didn’t think I had enough to say to become an artist (though I now think I was a victim of the times in making this decision so soon) and I didn’t want to spend my life lecturing with slides in darkened rooms. If I was going to work with art, I wanted to work with real art, not reproductions, and with art’s widest possible audience not with those who wanted to study it for degrees.

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