How We Visit Museums

Timothy Aubry confesses:

Your friend comes to visit. You go to whatever exhibit you found on the New York Times website that morning while he was sleeping. At the museum, he talks about the pictures in a voice loud enough to make you uncomfortable. He asks, “What do you think makes this painting so powerful?” Or, “What do you think this artist is trying to say?” The questions are not stupid. It’s just that you can’t think of how to answer them without sounding stupid yourself. Should you say, “I think the vibrant use of orange really enhances the composition”? Or, “She’s critiquing commodity culture, while also reveling in it”? No! Intellectual conversations, as a woman I briefly dated once admonished me, are like public displays of affectionfun to be in, but mortifying to observe, and in a museum you know you’re being observed.