In a museum – behind the scenes
The series In a Museum started a bit unexpectedly. Sometime in 2017, Eva, a photographer and a friend of mine, asked me to join her for a visit in the Danubiana – Contemporary Art Museum. I liked this place as I already had visited it several times before, so I looked forward to see it again. I admit, the modern art is far beyond my understanding – I prefer the old school painters, therefore my photography expectations were not that high. Not caring about the exhibitions at that time, having only a pocket camera with me, Eva and me set off.
Having arrived at the place, I was a bit surprised. Since my last visit to Danubiana, it had been extended by a new pavilion and it got about twice as large as before. As we got into this new part, a large hall with a bench immediately attracted my sight. At this point the idea of a picture came to my mind, alone woman sitting on the bench, looking away from the space and time. So I asked Eva to sit down on it and I took couple of pictures with my “soapbox” camera.
Then we moved on to the exhibition Desire. I liked it, but as Eva went near to the statues, I started to love it – they were perfectly fitting together! Actually, the first picture of the series was done – The Muses. On the way out of the museum, we saw another set of statues, which would suit for the third picture – The Headache. Nevertheless, there was a long way to go yet…
Being back home I had a look at the pictures and I was quite optimistic about the content, however, a bit disillusioned about the picture quality. So I decided to go back to the place and shoot the pictures once again with better optics. Eva laughed a lot about my proposal, but she agreed. So we went to Danubiana once more a week later.
But – what a surprise, the statues were not at their original places, but in a row near to the walls! I did a quick decision to move them back to their original positions as seen one week earlier. Almost immediately after I started doing this a guard appeared, shouting loudly: “What are you doing, mister?” I answered: “I’m moving the statues.” He continued loudly: “What the hell, you cannot do that, they must stay where they are!” I tried to argue: “OK, OK, please explain me, why a week ago, they were standing in totally different places?!” He looked at me and finally answered: “It’s author’s intention.” And with these words, he vanished in the museum cafeteria, leaving us alone with the statues… I do not have to explain, Eva got a bit out of her comfort zone and the photo-shooting was over that day.
We tried to repeat the shooting one more time the next week in order to take at least the picture of a woman sitting on the bench, but the sky was plain and the results we not satisfactory. Eva’s handbag put beside her was a kind of disruptive in the end and didn’t quite correspond with a woman left alone.
I thought, with Danubiana, it was all over. I told the story to another friend of mine – Adriana. Without letting me know, wrote a letter to Danubiana Management asking for a photography permission including moving the Desire exhibition statues. One day, Adriana was on the line asking me: “Guess what I’ve got? We are allowed to take pictures and move the statues!” I thought, I was dreaming. Nevertheless, we waited for the proper weather and we went back to Danubiana again. Indeed, the permission was no fake, the personnel already knew about us as we arrived. The sky and the cloud timing for the picture With the head in the clouds was like heaven sent. I was also able to take The Muses photograph. However, we were not allowed to move the second set of statues, as it was not explicitly stated in the permission.
I got two pictures and I was missing at least one more. Therefore, I decided to go to Danubiana again, maybe I would be able to find something to fit the series. However, being there for the fifth time, I realized, the Desire exhibition was gone and a new set of pictures had been installed just a day before I arrived. There was nothing attracting my view inside. So I went out on the well maintained lawn, near to the group of young people. I laid down to check some better position for a picture of a statue outside. I felt somehow, there is something wrong, somebody is watching me. I stood up, went to the pathway across the grass and just in this moment I saw the small sign down on the pathway saying “Please stay off the grass!”. Too late… Someone was just waving at me from the pathway. Having a better look at this well dressed gentleman I realized, he is not a guard. He smiled at me and started talking to me: “You must be a professional!” I was rather confused, so I shortly answered: “Thanks, I’m not, but my camera is!” The man continued, pointing on the crowd of people at the lawn: “This is my family.” I thought – damned, what should I say this time? Nothing more intelligent had come to my mind than a short answer: “Nice!” The man got it, it’s going to be difficult with me… He apparently gave up, held out his hand, saying: “I’m Gerard Meulensteen, nice to meet you! Could you make us some nice pictures?” I gazed at him, thinking – well, the Almighty has an incredible sense of humor! After all the suffering with the pictures, I’d never expect to meet the founder and patron of the Danubiana Meulensteen Museum introducing himself to me in person. Of course, I gladly agreed and I did my best that day. While photographing Mr. Meulensteen with his family, together with the general manager of Danubiana, Mr. Polakovič, I asked for a permission to take the third picture with the second set of statues. And there it was! Thanks to both of you this way for your friendliness!
One year passed by and we were out for an ice-cream with some friends – photographers. A young man, René, joined us. As we started speaking about the series above, René suddenly told me: “I remember it, I had already seen that scene! At the time of shooting the photograph With the head in the clouds, I was just visiting Danubiana. And I made a picture of you, while you were photographing your model.” Of course, I was not aware of anybody taking a picture of me at all, as I was fully concentrated on the scene. However, it is very nice to have such a picture, thanks a lot, René!