The documentary film The Great Museum takes us through the ins and outs of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches museum; from the start up and complete take down of an exhibit. This museum is known to house the works of the old MastersL Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Peter Paul Reubens. Director Johannes Holzhausen takes the viewer to a place where no viewer has gone before. A behind the scenes look at how the inner workings of a prestigious museum in Vienna operate from day to day. This encompasses who is involved in the process. As a viewer you get to play the role of curator, board of trustee member, conservationist, buyer, researcher and guest. The first walk through of the space shows a total take down of the prior show. We’re taken down staircases through hallways, almost as an observer and onlooker to what’s later going to emerge. Giving the notion that every exhibit is a diamond in the rough. This film permits a behind the scenes view of something that appears so effortless to the common museum attendee. The endless amount of restoration, research and organization that brings each exhibit together is just astounding.
The documentary is shot through a voyeur perspective. As a voyeur audience we get to experience board meetings, budget discussion and certain obstacles that they face throughout. You attend meeting after meeting to see if there’s a way they could rethink certain pieces and add more or take away. It’s interesting to see where the camera brings you. The wide shot angles at an eye level in each room make you feel so insignificant by comparison to the large-scale paintings and artworks. The dialogue is usually an interaction between large and small groups of people making matter of fact decisions.
There is a heavy concentration on the conservation of the works themselves as the focus of this is for the artworks to appear as though they had been just been constructed. This process in many clips proves that it is not such an easy task.
A long and exhaustive process is culminated when the viewer is taken on the initial walkthrough hosted by the curator and attended by the royal family in an initial private viewing. The film comes full circle at the end with the take down of the show.
The Great Museum gave me some perspective on the painstaking process as well as the importance of the attention to detail when it comes to setting up an art show in a major museum. What makes the documentary intriguing is that you’re able to get a glimpse of each department and how it demonstrates that one department of the museum relies on all others to function.
The Great Museum is at Cinema du Parc.