A Museum Without Walls
"For over a century our approach to art has
been growing more and more intellectualized. The museum invites comparison
of each of the expressions of the world it brings together, and forces us
to question what it is that brings them together. The sequence of
seemingly antagonistic schools has added to the simple 'delight of the
eye' an awareness of art's impassioned quest, of a re-creation of the
universe, confronting the Creation. After all, a museum is one of the
places that show man at his noblest. . . . In a place where the work of
art no longer has any function other than that of being a work of art, and
at a time when the artistic exploration of the world is in active
progress, the assemblage of so many masterpieces--from which,
nevertheless, so many are missing--conjures up in the mind's eye all
of the world's masterpieces. How indeed could this mutilated possible fail
to evoke the whole gamut of the possible? . . . A museum without walls has
been opened to us, and it will carry infinitely farther that limited
revelation of the world of art which the real museums offer is within
their walls: in answer to their appeal, the plastic arts have produced
their printing press."
--Museum Without Walls
Human Destiny & Death
“Well we know that this word
gets its tone from the fact that it expresses our dependence and expresses
the mortality of everything that must die.
We know that in ourselves there is a weak point that no god can
watch over constantly: the saints call their despair aridness, and ‘Why
has thou forsaken me?’ is, for the Christian, the cry of man himself.
Time sweeps on, perhaps toward eternity, and certainly toward
death. But destiny is not
death—it is made up of everything that makes man aware of his
nothingness, and, first of all, of his solitude; that is why man has so
often taken refuge in love, and why religions protect man against his
destiny—even when they do not defend him against death—by making him a
bond with God and the universe. We
know the side of man that wants to be omnipotent and immortal.
We know that man’s awareness of himself is not formed in the same
way as his awareness of the world; and we know that for himself each one
is a monster of dreams.”
--The Psychology of Art
The West &
Loss of an Orientation Towards Being
“What Christian culture was
discarding was . . . something even more vital than a faith; it was the
notion of man oriented towards Being—who was soon to be replaced by the
man capable of being swayed by ideas and acts; value was being
disintegrated into a plurality of values.
What was disappearing from the Western world was the Absolute."
“Whether we like it or not the
West will elucidate its destiny only by the light of the torch it is
carrying, even if it burns its hand: and what this torch seeks to light up
is everything which can heighten man’s power.
How can an agnostic civilization refuse to have recourse to what
has transcended it and so often accounted for its greatness?
If the substance of all culture is the quality of the world, its
aim is the quality of man. And
this it is which makes a culture not a summa of knowledge but an
heir of greatness. Our own
artistic culture, knowing that it cannot limit itself to the subtle
refining of its sensibilities, is groping its way in the presence of the
figures, songs, and poems which constitute the legacy of the world’s
oldest nobility, because it has discovered itself to be today sole heir to
--The Voices of Silence
Some Key Concepts in Malraux's Thinking
- Malraux sought for a way to synthesize the
individual, who was (and is) increasingly conceived of as a mishmash
of warring parts; likewise, he sought to find a way to discover a
unity in the culture.
- In typical existential fashion, he sees people as
possessing a self-created meaning which is to "negate our
nothingness," though at times he toys with religion, especially Christianity,
as holding the answer for his desired synthesis.
- The means of media reproduction now makes a
universal art possible.
- The museum separates out art as art, and thereby
it both celebrates the aesthetic achievements of all cultures even as
it decontextualizes the art objects from their original meanings and
uses. The museum without walls goes even
further, making it possible through print reproduction to become
acquainted with all art from every period and culture.
- Artists are hostile to nature in that they reduce
nature to plastic created forms distinct from nature.
- The art world in the modern period is
increasingly self-referential, no longer referring to the transcendent
or to the natural world, yet ironically this has called back into
consideration all past styles and approaches.
- Because the modern age has lost a sense of the
transcendent and a human orientation to the Absolute, the transcendent
is now wholly negative for people, which results in spiritual
suffering and obsession as our way of relating to it.
- Art is a form of action in response to this
transcendent absence and seeks to triumph over death by its powers of
- There is no final end to the human dialogue
within art and with death.
- Each style period in some way removes the masks
of the world and seeks to free us from a race with death. A culture's
style represents its conquering what has preceded it.
- The "will to omnipotence" in some art
seeks to divorce art from the transcendent and to seek complete
freedom of creation.
- The chaos of the museum without walls can create
a complete spiritual bewilderment or a spiritual detachment and
artistic contest defined by multiplicity.
- Yet it can also give rise to a meta-art of
purified meaning--of creation as a protest against the world's
- Malraux, therefore, rejects art which believes in
a surreal surrender to the irrational.