I’ve spent lots of time in the public spaces of museums since I started visiting with kids. Our museum expeditions unfold in kid time. Even a quick trip through a gallery is balanced with down time flopped on benches watching construction out the window or waiting for the giant freight elevator to open again. If the lovely white upholstered benches at the Walker are no longer pristine, we may be partially at fault.
Lately, I’ve been telling O., the five-year-old, “ you lead.” This doesn’t mean he gets to tear through the galleries, but it does mean that he sets the pace and the path. We look at the things he’s interested in, for as long as he’s interested. Usually this means we get through the galleries at a pretty good clip, and I miss things I’d really like to see. But we do spend time circling Charles Ray’s sculpture of a crashed car and, unexpectedly, with Robert Gober’s sculpture depicting a Kleenex box on a small chair. O. wouldn’t go near the Kara Walker exhibition (“ there are real ghosts in there, you know”), but we visited the Huang Yong Ping retrospective together twice, spending 20 minutes or more sitting a safe distance away from the The Nightmare of George V, a dramatic sculpture featuring an elephant and a tiger.
Visits to a museum with a five-year-old are not the visits I’d do by myself. We miss a lot and spend more time on the benches in the lobby than I’d like. But if he leads me through – rather than me dragging him through – chances are he’ll be interested in going back.
By the way, the five museums we visited in Los Angeles were the Santa Monica Museum of Art (disclosure: I am showing in the project room space there), LACMA, the Hammer, the Getty, and the Page Museum. Which was the biggest hit with the kids? The Page Museum had mastodon bones and tar pits, but the Getty had Tim Hawkinson’s berorgan. And we buzzed the Dan Flavin show twice, because O. thought some of the lights looked like rocket ships.