an inside look that doesn’t keep its promises

The Uffizi Gallery, in Florence (Italy), in the documentary series by Corinna Belz, “The Museums told by their guardian angels”.


The idea for the documentary series Museums told by their guardian angels is a priori rich in promise: giving a voice to those who are often seen sitting, taciturn, only getting up to remind visitors of the rules of conduct; hear the story from behind the scenes; discover rich and interesting personalities.

Especially since the representatives of this profession – sometimes appointed by competitive examination, as in Italy, with oral and written tests as well as an English test – are often students, or former students, of art history, sometimes artists themselves, finding in this food work a profession within their ropes and with flexible hours.

The camera moves to four major European museums: the Center Pompidou, in Paris; the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence (Italy); the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, in Cologne (Germany); the Prado Museum, in Madrid (Spain). All this can be seen without displeasure, but the witnesses and the production do not meet the presumed expectation.

Certainly, the comments made by the guards (or “reception agents”, as they are called at the Uffizi Gallery, which makes it less prison-like) about exhibited works that are dear to them are supposed to express their personal view. But they are rarely as unique as one would expect, even from “connoisseurs”.

Work of restorers

Thus, in Paris, in front of the scholarly bric-a-brac of Ben’s Store (1958-1973), by the artist Benjamin Vautier, known as Ben, or, in Madrid, facing the teeming triptych THE Garden of Delights (between 1490 and 1500), by Hieronymus Bosch, two guardians say they find new details to discover each time – which is quite banal. And we would happily do without sentences like: “We’re happy to go home with someone waiting for us, but we’re also happy to come back to work. »

The Prado Museum, in Madrid (Spain), in the documentary series by Corinna Belz “Museums told by their guardian angels”.

The four episodes end up being a portrait of the museum envisaged – with the more or less significant participation of the ruling powers of the establishments – rather than a putting into perspective of singular points of view. The work of restorers is also mentioned: interesting but off topic.

We are all the more sorry because Corinna Belz, the director of these Museums told by their guardian angelsis a recognized documentary filmmaker, who notably signed a very beautiful film dedicated to the painter Gerhard Richter, Gerhard Richter Painting (2011), and produced the video which served as a framework for the collaboration of the German artist with the American musician Steve Reich for Moving Picture 946-3, commonly called Reich/Richter (2019), an astonishing multimedia work. Damage.

Museums told by their guardian angels, documentary series by Corinna Belz (Germany, 2023, 4 x 26 min). Available on demand on until December 7. The two episodes dedicated to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum (Cologne) and the Center Pompidou (Paris) are broadcast on Sunday September 17 at 7:25 a.m. and 7:50 a.m.; the two episodes dedicated to the Prado Museum (Madrid) and the Uffizi Gallery (Florence) are broadcast on the same day at 5:20 p.m. and 5:50 p.m.

Renaud Machart

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