Where horses are donkeys – an art gallery through toddler eyes

September 19, 2012

Kids in Museums, Germany

Apologies for the #kidsinmuseums heavy week, but I’ve been solo parenting since last Thursday while the husband is on a well deserved holiday in Scotland, so there has been a lot of one on one time with #MuseumBaby. And, as you know, museums are always my refuge J Though, actually, it’s the boy who has been leading the way on our museum visits. After dragging me into the Jewish Museum Berlin on Saturday, he followed up the next day by demanding we go inside the Berlinische Galerie (museum of modern art, photography and architecture). It’s right next to the playground which we like to frequent on Sunday mornings, and usually it’s still closed and we just play on the big letter checkerboard outside. But this time we were running a bit later than usual, and when #MuseumBaby did what all toddlers like to do – press buttons – the barrier free access door swung open. Faster than you can say “museum” we were inside.

The upside down rotating trees hanging in the entry foyer didn’t impress him at all. In fact, he didn’t like the noise they were making. He wanted to go up the central stairs – he loves climbing stairs. Which was fine by me, as it got him away from the light installation with a sign next to it warning of the danger of electrocution!

So then we found ourselves in the upper galleries. At the Jewish Museum the day before, he was intuitively drawn from one interactive to the next – tunnels, drawing, cartoons – but here there was just art, nothing else. How long would it take until #MuseumBaby starting running up and down the corridors and climbing on benches, and we turned into the family everyone who goes to a gallery on a quiet Sunday morning likes to hate? Well, that didn’t happen. Firstly, he didn’t run, he strode. Very purposefully from one room to the next, until stopping suddenly in front of a painting of a man with a giant head and three legs. He looked at the painting, looked at me, pointed, babbled – incomprehensible toddler babbling, but very incessant – I would have loved to know what he was thinking. Then off he was again. He was running round corners expectantly (okay, now he was running a little), as if he was looking for something. And then he found it. The wooden statue he had seen the week before when we picked his dad up from his German class here. A wooden statue of a man and a woman in an embrace. “Man! Man!” he cried, and “Hat!” patting his head. I was amazed.

And so we continued, #MuseumBaby leading the way, and me following behind. He would stop at a contemporary cityscape to point out a car (“Auto!”) or a clock on a building (“Uhr!”). He seemed puzzled at a metal sculpture hanging from a ceiling, making me understand through gestures that he wanted me to explain what it was. Contemporary art is not my forte, but I decided it looked like a face and told him so. He responded by touching his nose (“Nose!”). The pig dressed in a suit, also hanging from the ceiling, was just as puzzling to him, but here he recognised by himself what it was, which he made very clear through his grunting pig noises. Are you allowed to grunt like a pig in an art gallery? Who knows, but I joined in. Similarly with the donkey noises for the statuette in the next room. Who cares if it was a horse.

The last thing that caught his eye before we headed back downstairs was a set of 5 painted nudes, standing posing with the hair flowing behind them, each underplayed with a different colour circle. He stood staring at them, transfixed, then pointed at the one nearest and declared “Belly!”, followed shortly by “Mama!”. Ehm…what? He indicated that he wanted picked up, then patted my chest and repeated “Mama!”, nodding towards the painting with its bare-chested lady. He was obviously making connections. Back on the ground floor he insisted we watch some film footage on African genocide, pulling me down to sit next to him. I took the disapproving looks of the other visitors to mean they felt the images of graves and skulls to be inappropriate for such a young kid, but in fact there were two other toddlers with parents who came and joined us. And anyway, he lots interest fairly quickly, presumably because Postman Pat or the Alphablocks didn’t materialise. After one final stomp around the trees, of which he was still suspicious, he decided it was time to leave, as suddenly as we had come in.

Altogether we stayed for just over half an hour. Again, I probably wouldn’t have paid full admission just to pop in, so I’m really glad my ICOM card gives us the freedom to come and go as we please. I would never have thought to take #MuseumBaby on an outing to an art gallery, unless perhaps there was a family event on, but I’m glad he taught me otherwise.


Related posts you might like:

, , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply