Today I planned to visit the Palazzo Strozzi which is hosting an exhibition of late 19th and early 20th centuries ‘religious’ art under the title Divine Beauty from Van Gogh to Chagall and Fontana. Two things come as a surprise in that first sentence. Firstly that I had made a plan of any sort this early in my holiday and secondly, that I chose to look at art work that was not medieval or Renaissance this early as well. These are things that usually happen when I have run out of time and energy. At the same time as I climbed the grand staircase to the Strozzi’s exhibition space, herd of school children can running up the stairs behind me with their teachers and minders. Given that they were RUNNING up the stairs I was getting ready to have my enjoyment spoiled and composing in my head the piece I would write about how children are all the same. Ah, but fair reader … read on!
Having accompanied more excursions than I care to remember with students of all ages, I am, of course, a world expert on the behavior of 13 to 15 year olds having an art gallery inflicted upon them. It is not cool to look at all interested in culture and given that there were BOYS thrown into this juvenile mix only chaos could ensue. With what must have been instinct, I found myself prowling the edges of the groups, waiting for the badly hidden shenanigans to start and casting about my teacher’s evil eye.
Of course, I really need not have bothered.
The groups stood quietly in front of the piece that their teachers were lecturing on, if not listening with interest, then at least keeping their disinterest in check. Even the back seat johnnies were only fidgeting minimally. Armed with worksheets, they had obviously been coached to seat in loose groups to allow the passage of adult visitors and they were all actually filling in the exercises. On occasion a minder would have them bob down so that others could see the works without obstruction and they did so without complaint. They were all quiet and so well behaved that eventually the only thing stopping me from fully enjoying the experience was my tired feet and aching back.
Whatever magic the teachers here have to spin, I think that Australian teachers could use a healthy dose of it. Aussie children could also learn a thing or two about being presentable in public from these kids. They are certainly a credit to their parents and their teachers.
And the exhibition? It was very enjoyable with some interesting surprises including a crucifixion by Marc Chagall who, for the artistically challenged, was Jewish. I might even go back for a second look if I have the time.