Where are the El Grecos? They moved them. They used to be with the Spanish artists. No longer. We walked through the hallways looking in the galleries. They hadn’t put them away, had they? Into storage or something foolish like that? His Assumption of the Virgin was locatable but that painting has always been apart from the rest because of its huge size. Where were the others?
The guards were not much help. Sadly, they didn’t know who El Greco was. “European, right?” was the best response we got but no information about where the paintings might be. We even asked two Art Institute students (they had IDs around their necks), but they weren’t much help either. I’m not even sure they recognized his name. We went back down to the information desk on the first floor. It took a while. Their computers weren’t cooperating. In fact, one of the volunteers needed help from the other to negotiate the intricacies of the search. Then voila—Gallery 206. Back upstairs. Near the impressionists and in a room with the Titians (school of), Tintorettos, Veroneses, Bassanos et al.
Ah, the Art Institute of Chicago has globalized (EU’ed?). No longer are works totally geographically segregated, but are put into chronological groupings, at least for Europe (not for American, African, Indian arts, etc–this decision for different politically charged reasons, of course). At least the big names are globalized. Other artists are still geographically organized–like Goya and Zurburan. I wonder if some of the art has been “globalized” so it is easier for the quick tour of tourists looking for “the best of.” (The El Grecos located near the impressionists should have been a glaring clue.)
Realizing my environment had been rearranged was at first disturbing, but once we located the El Grecos I calmed down and worked to reestablish the map of my visual bearings.
And once I was inside my favorite paintings, my external environment fell away anyway.