Slate is putting out its own line of audio tours to download into your Pod player and take with you to museums. What’s interesting about this to me is the way it bypasses any kind of establishment. I mean, there’s no reason I couldn’t take my computer microphone and record my OWN tour to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (”What many people don’t emphasize enough about Bosch is that the dude was high as a freaking kite when he was painting these. I mean, that was one stoned Mideval weirdo. What was he doing? Where can I get some?”)
Museums, historical sites, and the companies that produce their audio tours aren’t completely honest with you. They can’t very well say things like “critics think this work is terrifically overrated, but we keep it on the wall because we sell a thousand posters of it a day,” or “we know this sketch looks profoundly boring, but here’s why it’s the most interesting thing you’ll see all day,” or “we only hang this painting here because old Mrs. Dimbledumble wouldn’t have donated the new East Wing otherwise.”
They can’t say things like that, but we can. And now, thanks to the growing prevalence of iPods and other digital audio players, you can download Slate’s unauthorized tours and take them with you. If you happen to be in New York (or plan to be soon), you can start right now with Slate art critic Lee Siegel’s tour of what he considers the most overrated and underrated paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Modern Art Gallery.
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