All possible means are used to convey both hidden messages and views that leave nothing to be desired in clarity. Yet what is expressed in art is almost never open to one interpretation. From the earliest clay tablets to the zeros and ones of digital technology, signs have been part of the visual language for establishing human exchange. How they are understood or understood is another.
In this agenda for 2023, more than fifty diverse works from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen explain how a message can be conveyed.
In Western art history, the Annunciation is one of the earliest and most famous examples of this. The Master of the Virgo inter Virgines reverently depicts this biblical scene at the end of the fifteenth century. In De peddler by Jheronimus Bosch we recognize the traveling messenger who, in addition to merchandise, also offers the latest news. It’s not just about information transfer. The confidential conversation of Jean-Honoré Fragonard shows that communication has a secret side.
Other artists cause confusion by elevating the means of communication themselves to art, such as Salvador Dalí with his White Aphrodisiac Telephone, in which the telephone handset in the shape of a lobster has been given a voluptuous and surrealistic appearance. James Lee Byars turned personal messages to his circle of acquaintances into exceptional letter objects that have been executed as true works of art.
In other words, in this tableau of works of art, the subject shows itself as incredibly versatile. The museum is the place where such messages reveal the connection between personal imagination and hidden meanings.
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