In mid-February, my eight-year-old, Wyatt was off school for President’s day week. His brother’s preschool was still in session, so I decided to treat him to a special mother/son day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
We set off to the city on BART on a rainy Tuesday morning and after a quick stop for coffee and hot chocolate we made our way over to the museum.
Yerba Buena Gardens, across the street from the museum, is one of my favorite places in San Francisco so Wyatt and I spent some time wandering around the fountains before we went inside.
Wyatt has never been to an art museum before so we also talked a bit about some of the things we would see inside. I asked him to tell me what kinds of art he thought the museum would have and while he came up with paintings and sculptures pretty easily, it took a few leading questions on my part before he added photography, collages and murals to the mix. I also tried to explain what art installations were, but that taxed my own ability to talk about art a bit too much.
In general, he wasn’t particularly impressed by the art but I was impressed by how open-minded he was. He definitely wanted to move through the galleries much more quickly than I did, but when I asked him to slow down or study a painting with me he would.
Despite walking past famous works by Picasso, Matisse, Kahlo and Magritte, interest wasn’t piqued my much until we entered the surrealist gallery. Despite the face he’s making in the photo, he actually really liked this piece: Warengestell mit Gehirnen (Display Stand with Brains), Katharina Fritsch. One of the questions he asked: how zombies would react to it if they came into the museum?
This painting in the abstract gallery (Untitled, Clyfford Still) was particularly challenging to him — and to me too, I admit. the canvas is completely covered in black oil paint with a few small streaks of red in it. We talked for quite awhile about why this is considered to be art, what the artist might have been trying to say and whether or not we liked it. Our brains: they stretched.
I think Wyatt’s favorite piece was Marcel DuChamp’s, Fountain. He’s a young boy — I don’t really need to explain his delight, do I?
At one point when we were walking past a window, Wyatt pointed to the building across the street and observed that all of the lamps in the windows were the same. I had to take a picture because it looked so cool!
(We were puzzled at first, but then realized that the building must be a hotel.)
After a while Wyatt started to get tired of standing and he was no longer open-minded. We walked quickly through the rest of the galleries and then decided we needed to wrap things up.
Wyatt’s favorite part of the day? The cream puffs we got on the way back to the train! They are works of art in their own way, of course…
Have you tried taking your child to an art museum? How did it go?