A Comprehensive(ish) Visitor’s Guide to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

map of PMA, Jenny Kessler, Curate This

I met Jenny Kessler when she was directing a production of Mac Wellman’s Cellophane in last year’s Fringe and I interviewed her about putting the impossible on stage. Her range of talents is pretty expansive, including graphic design and illustration, costume and puppet design, and directing, among others. I suggest perusing her illustrations—from the mystery and vulnerability of floating in space to the grotesque cuteness of alt meat, and my current favorite, the 9-1-1 cow. We’re very excited to have her curating a week of content at Curate This!

This guide to the PMA is foolproof. I have personally taken this route every time I’ve visited the venerable institution, and it has always made the experience a great one.

map of PMA, Jenny Kessler, Curate This

  1. Arrive at the museum, having consumed a donut and iced coffee, foolishly believing that they will sustain you during your visit.
  2. Realize it’s 3:30pm and you will only have 1.5 hours in the museum. Decide it’s still worth it.
  3. Take a left, and start walking towards the back entrance of the museum, to see the sculpture by Giacometti.
  4. Walk by the Perelman Building, on your right. You’ve heard they have such a great collection! You’ve always wanted to see it, but clearly never made the time to do so.
  5. Walk up the steps to the back entrance. Admire the sculpture by Giacometti. Wait, no…it’s not Giacometti. I totally thought it was? Huh. Welp, i have no idea who made it, but it definitely LOOKS like a Giacometti.
  6. Purchase tickets, ideally using an expired student ID.
  7. Walk up the steps to the main entrance. Enter the galleries on the 1st floor, to go to the Duchamp gallery. You know, the guy who put a urinal on a pedestal, signed it, and called it art? Today just feels like the kind of day to look at some infuriating Dadaism.
  8. Take a right into Gallery 152. Enjoy some dank impressionism. Wonder why all the moms you know love impressionism.
  9. Remember the amazing Cy Twombly exhibit and try to remember how to get there.
  10. Take a step into the small gallery on the side. Pause to reflect on how annoying Renoir’s nudes are. (pro-tip: it’s because he used a base color for skin that artists typically use for FRUIT. So all his naked ladies are looking ripe for the pickin’. Hard pass.)
  11. Feel the energy from the aforementioned donut and coffee begin to wear off. This will certainly turn into a migraine.
  12. Spend time in the Cy Twombly exhibit. Linger on the ferocity of the reddish-orange clouds. Take in the disturbing charcoal etches of names memorialized in time and death. Consider how Twombly subverts the precedents of art history, showing the true ravages of war, encapsulating the pure despair that violence leaves in its wake.*
    (*Unless you hate Twombly’s work. It’s just a bunch of smudges and fingerprints on a canvas! How is this hanging in a museum?!)
  13. Finally enter the Duchamp collection. Stop, can you feel it? It’s the collective rage of the art world.
  14. You can’t tell if the pounding in your head is your migraine, or the collective rage of the art world.
  15. Give the photo of Alfred Stieglitz the stink-eye. He deserves it. #TeamGeorgiaOKeeffe
  16. Without a doubt, this is the worst migraine you have ever experienced in your life. This is not a direction in the tour, this is just a fact.
  17. Enter the dimly-lit space in the back of the gallery. Encounter the wooden door, with a small peephole upon the handle. Approach the peephole. Look inside.
  18. Feel your soul split from your body. Your migraine has taken over your consciousness, there is no going back now. You rush deeper and deeper into a realm beyond explanation. Art has never existed outside the self. You have always been the art. The migraine is the art. Your butt is the art. Your butt is in front of the urinal. The urinal is everywhere. The urinal is everything. The urinal is GOD.
  19. Realize it’s now 4:45pm and you really should get going.
  20. Scurry back through the wing. Notice the Rauschenbergs and Jasper Johns and all the other art you wish you had taken the time to look at.
  21. Remember that there’s a hilarious 19th century plate on the other side of the museum that reads “Oh, you ugly slut.” I am not making this up.
  22. Run through the rest of the wing, through the front entrance, to the other side of the building, past Renaissance masterpieces and American stained glass and portraits, coming close to crashing into a vase.
  23. Find the plate. It’s hand-painted, clearly done by a commoner, outside the confines of the elite sphere of Art. See the lettering clearly: “You…ugly…slut.” Truly, there is no better example of Quality than this.
  24. On your way out, quickly stop by the bathroom. Notice a small signature reading “Duchamp” on the basin of the toilet.
  25. Smash the toilet to pieces.
  26. Leave through the front of the museum, vowing that next time, you will absolutely see more of the PMA.

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