November 22, 2013

How an Art Museum Mixes with Doctor Who

I've recently moved to a new city and one of my first priorities has been finding geeky activities. Even though I had a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles, I can't deny that the geek community there was pretty awesome. It's not easy to replace, but I've been surprised by the cool events happening in my new neighborhood. The approaching 50th anniversary special for Doctor Who has brought fun stuff to the surface - such as a tour at the Cleveland Museum of Art based on points in history the Doctor and his companions have visited.

The program called Art Bites takes a 30 minute tour of the museum with a twist. From their site: "It’s art with a twist—unique topics inspired by your favorite hobbies, books, television shows, and more." I was sold as soon as I read it.

We began the tour in with the ancient Romans. The First Doctor encountered Emperor Nero in "The Romans." The museum had a connection to Nero in their museum; they had a bust of Octavia, one of Nero's wives. It was a perfect opportunity to discuss Nero's uh, less than stable personality, and it was shown in the Who episode. In the same room, they also had The Emperor as Philosopher statue. It's thought to be Marcus Aurelius.The tour guide pointed out the similarities in the ensemble to those worn by the Eleventh Doctor in "The Wedding of River Song."

Next, remember the Headless Monks in "A Good Man Goes to War?" They had some portrayals of the Mourners of the Tomb of Philip the Bold that looked similar. A painting by John Martin titled Ruins of an Ancient City evoked the fantastical feeling of "The Wedding of River Song" because it's sort of a mashing together of different times and styles - like time crashing together.

And then we explored a connection to Madame de Pompadour. The woman from "The Girl in the Fireplace" is a real figure from history and she was the primary mistress of Louis XV. The museum had a ceiling to floor rug from the dining room of Louis XV's chateau. I was amazed at how bright the colors still looked despite the item's age!

And there was more. They had a fair amount of porcelain on display and even if Madame de Pompadour never owned any of the specific items, she was affiliated with Sèvres - the factory where some of the porcelain was produced. She had a soft spot for the functional art and was part of the factory's development.
The final stop on the tour was to see a Vincent van Gogh painting. Though the museum is having a van Gogh exhibit in the spring (I want them hire Bill Nighy as the docent), they had one painting available for us to see - Portrait of Adeline Ravoux. It wasn't featured in "Vincent and the Doctor," but van Gogh created the painting in 1890. That ties to the episode because the Doctor and Amy visited in 1890. As you probably guessed, they took liberties with the locations and timeline to suit the story. And I'm okay with that - it's a phenomenal episode and I wouldn't change a single scene.

I was sad the thirty minutes went so fast! Incorporating pop culture into tours is a fun and fresh way to experience the museum's collections. I'm already looking forward to attending The Hunger Games session in January.


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