I enjoy going to the museum with Harold — I like both Harold and art museums very much — but we go off in opposite directions immediately. There is almost no overlap in our interests here. I wave him over to look at a Chinese inscription, full of my own cleverness when I can read a bit on an ancient vase. (Actually, ‘reading’ is an exaggeration. The few Chinese words I can recognize — up and big and China and mountain — are the simple ones that haven’t really changed much in centuries, so it’s really just me announcing a few characters I recognize, while pretending to be deciphering ancient wisdom.)
I also call him over to look at classical art, because I need a second opinion on what myth is being depicted. I got through my art-history courses by treating classical iconography like a hidden objects game, and I enjoy it more in a gallery than on an exam. The dude with grapes is probably Dionysus, the lady in a helmet is Athene. White background and lots of reeds? Probably the Reed Painter. This is apparently less fun to people who did not major in classics.
Harold studied art, instead, and is more interested in modern works. I always ask him about it, because despite boring Harold through the Asian and Ancient wings, I still want to visit the museum together. Then he tries to explain it to me, saying things about form and color and photography freeing art to become less representational, which makes no sense at all. I don’t really get abstract pieces, but if you want to paint blobs and lines and sections of color, why don’t you title it something that hints at the point? Why are these always called things like 27 and Untitled? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO UNDERSTAND FROM THAT? Where is the narrative? What is happening in this picture? Ugh. Then I get very frustrated because I would really like to be someone who looks at abstract art and says something thoughtful and intelligent, but mostly I think there’s a lot of green in this one.