The Art That Still Stands
This past Monday, Iraq's National Museum reopened for the first time since its looting in 2003. As reported by Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times, only half of the exhibition halls have opened, and some feature photographs of the pieces, rather than the actual works themselves. Still, however, the museum is back in the public hands, and open for all to see. With Iraq's political sphere in massive upheaval and a culture made schizophrenic by global intervention, how can we interpret the opening of this museum?
For ages, people have argued that art comes secondary to other pillars of society. Granted, most revolutionary art periods have occurred in places where economic security and political freedom reign. However, I must argue that art and culture is necessary- dare I say more necessary- in times of political upheaval than in times of peace. Art is similar to religion, in that it connects people to a higher, deeper, more universal power than they can find in themselves. And this, I think, is why Iraq's National Museum has opened, despite the rickety foundation that still exists in the country.
Let's take a cue from this move across the Ocean, and keep our museums, galleries, and playhouses open. Art is not an added bonus. It is a way of life for all people, and when it is lost, so is a bit of each of our voices. To inspire you all to donate to arts-based causes, I am going to close with a quote from Tom Stoppard's epic(ally inspirational) play, The Coast of Utopia. "The point is, the question ‘how to make a clock’ has the same answer for everybody. We can all be clockmakers, or astronomers. But if we all wanted to be Pushkin if the question is, how do you make a poem by Pushkin?- or, what exactly makes one poem or painting or piece of music greater than another?-or what is beauty? or liberty? or virtue?- if the question is, how should we live? then reason gives no answer or different answers. So something is wrong. The divine spark in man is not reason after all, but something else, some kind of intuition or vision, perhaps like the moment of inspiration experienced by the artist.”