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: Tour de Force


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Nearly everyone agrees that the most rewarding way to visit a museum is in the company of someone who is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic teacher. And anyone who has had the pleasure of following the Institute's director and CEO, Evan M. Maurer, through the galleries would concur that he is the ideal "someone." Now Dr. Maurer is available to take you on a tour of his favorite European paintings and decorative arts. The vehicle for this edifying journey is the first in a series of audiocassette tours being produced to complement our newly installed galleries.

Producers in the Interactive Media department and museum educators have worked together to create a unique format that captures the immediacy of a real conversation. Dr. Maurer recorded "Treasures of European Art" live, without a script, in front of a small volunteer audience that gathered in the galleries two mornings this past summer.

The volunteer audience, like those who take the audio tour, gleaned a wealth of information about some of the Institute's finest paintings and decorative arts. They also discovered how seemingly familiar works of art can yield delightful surprises. Examining the right side of El Greco's Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple, Dr. Maurer exclaimed, "It's the first time I've seen this in 30 years!" He proceeded to explain that the two naked babies in the painting convey a moral lesson: the one representing an upright, obedient life is contrasted with one that, distracted by the gold, suggests a life that has fallen out of balance.

While the museum frequently provides recorded tours for temporary exhibitions, "Treasures of European Art" marks the first time this relatively simple technology has been used to interpret the permanent collection. It is one format among many—including improved labels and interactive computer programs—that provides the visitor with additional information-historical, technical, and anecdotal—about the museum's holdings.

Recorded cassette tours are, by their very nature, linear; that is, the narrator develops ideas from one object to the next. But we are also exploring a more advanced random-access audio technology that allows visitors to choose exactly which works of art they want to learn more about, in any order. And as always, the Institute's outstanding docents continue to offer guided tours of the permanent collection every day at 2 P.M. and also on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 P.M.

The 45-minute "Treasures of European Art" audiocassette tour is available at the Visitor and Member Center starting December 1 for a rental fee of $2 for members and $3 for nonmembers. The next recorded tour scheduled for production is titled "Art of the Americas." Docent-guided tours for groups of 15 or more can be scheduled by calling 870-3140.

Soonie Olson was a summer intern in the education division; Kate Johnson is chair of the education division.

Related Images

Dr. Maurer discovered something new in El Greco's Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple.

This painting by Anthony van Dyck depicts one of the most dramatic stories of the New Testament.

The audiocassette tour explains how the story of a Jewish heroine, portrayed on this embroidered box, is pertinent to events in17th-century England.

The MIA's director and CEO, Evan M. Maurer, recorded live in the European galleries, to the delight of a select audience.

This unusual Italian Renaissance ceramic basin combines function with references to mythology.

The creator of this work, Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun, was portraitist to the Royal Court of France and a favorite of Queen Marie Antoniette.

This 18th-century Italian silver inkstand not only has an interesting history, but its many moveable parts also made it a diverting plaything.
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Source: Soonie Olson and Kate Johnson, "Tour de Force: Museum director and CEO Evan M. Maurer has recorded an audio tour of some of his favorite works of art," <i>Arts</i> 20, no. 11 (December 1997): 4-5.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009