Activity: Free art museum
Difficulty Rating: only free if you can prove you’re local.
The New Orleans Museum of Art is another rad thing hiding in City Park. Entry is free on Wednesdays if you have any local documentation, or if you memorize one of the post codes. I’m glad they’re not racist against Aussie accents and accepted me as a local at face value – but then again I was wearing pink leggings, a jumpsuit and a straw hat so I looked pretty NOLA, yo. The museum is big, pretty and iconic and you’re not allowed to take photos in front of it without a permit.
My Aussie friends and I went because it boasts a wide collection of Louisiana art. This means a lot of paintings of rivers, photos of rivers and vases decorated with rivers. There was a full-scale replication of a southern plantation salon with original carpets and marble fireplace, and various ridiculous furnishings like golden butter churns and platters covered in ornate ceramic fish. Beside all that, in a dark corner, was a jacket worn by a house slave. It was simple, tight fitting and a dull military green with tails and brass buttons bearing the sigil of the slave’s owner. It was by far the least flamboyant thing in the room.
Near the plain jacket was a ridiculous white and gold urn covered in cherubs and flowers. It looked like Willy Wonka had crafted a nativity scene out of a pavlova. It made me understand why revolutions happen. Imagine being the guy who wore that plain jacket, walking past that urn every day and thinking “Why is this the way it is? Why do they get urns like this as decoration and I have to sleep in a barn?” Without slavery, subjugation and class divide many great arts would not have developed or been funded by the rich. But really, is a frilly, meringuey urn worth all that?
I’m sure the art is meant to make you think, but I’m not sure the museum intended me to get so angry at the rich. I was probably meant to marvel at the treasure and long for the days when I could look beaded, brocaded and bored like all the white women in the portraits, holding their fans soggily and frowning against trellises. But in the context of the southern mansions all I could see was the social injustice that led to the creation of ridiculous urns.
Here’s a picture that sums up the era. It’s a rich, bored, white boy hitting a monkey with a stick.