During the summer of 2003 I practically lived at the National Gallery of Canada. Working as a tour guide in Canada’s capital city, I frequently visited the Gallery with throngs of grade seven and eight students who were, understandably, more interested in the Ottawa River dance cruise than the Gallery’s 65,000 works of art.
Each group, however, was a mixture of astonished, dumbfounded, infuriated and elated when they came face-to-face with the Voice of Fire. Standing close to 18 feet in height, its massive size “transforms the space and tests the viewer’s sensory experience.”
Back in the early 1990s, the Gallery paid $1.8 million for this work of art by Barnett Newman, a New York based artist who focused on abstract expressionist paintings. Today, $1.8 million is less than the average price for a detached home in Vancouver, but in the early 1990s, with the country on the verge of a recession, that amount of money equated to a national controversy.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the purchase resulted in outrage in Parliament and a flood of letters to the editor. Gallery officials were also required to explain themselves to a Commons committee.
This was the scene outside of the Gallery. When seeing the Voice of Fire with your own eyes, it’s much easier to kindle an appreciation for the controversial work of art. Depending on where you’re standing in the room and the length of time you spend gazing at the painting, the three lines can engulf your vision.
As explained on Robert Genn’s blog, the Voice of Fire may appear simple, but it may also have a depth which only time and appreciation can bring.
For this week’s photo challenge from The Daily Post, I’m sharing a few abstract pictures from a recent trip to Newman’s hometown: New York. Like the Voice of Fire, each image is best experienced with an open mind.
Long-exposure in Times Square, New York.
Mirror maze artwork by Jeppe Hein in the Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Walkway below One World Trade Center, New York.