“Do not touch the artwork!” How many times did you hear this sentence? Well, I worked in a museum for a long time, so I am pretty familiar with it but I also know, how fantastic it is when we can touch it! As part of the conservation maintenance, we were occassionally obligated to “dust” some very famous sculptures (wearing white gloves and being extremely careful) but still. I did touch Roden or Matisse and will never forget that! This experience is however rare and most of us can “touch” only outside the museum. The funny thing is, that we seem to love it. Since I started working on the Luck Project, I pay much more attention to what is going on around public sculptures. What I’ve notice (and recorded) is rather entertaining.
The sculptures seem to have an enormous appeal and most people cannot resist at least a fleeting stroke. When it is physically possible, most people also enjoy climbing on the sculpture or posing with it – hugging it, replicating it’s gestures and so on. What is it that makes us do these things? Most of the sculptures in question are made of bronz as they are meant to last in all weather conditions. The sensation of the cold smooth bronz is simply very pleasant. The problem is, that the repeated touching and rubbing is actually harming the artwork. The metal simply “disappears” under our hands, so we should not do it, but the question is, who can resist?
This is the result of excessive touching…
When it comes to touching sculptures that are meant to bring luck, our behaviour becomes even more elaborate. We are willing to queue for our “lucky touch” and some of these sculptures even come with internet instructions “how to touch” them.
So, what is your experience with touching? Do you touch sculptures? Have you got any good pictures? Please let me know. Comment above or send me an e-mail.
Did you know that it is possible to export luck? Well, believe or not, the Czech cultural minister did just that. During the Expo in Shanghai in 2010, the Czech Republic exhibited LUCK – more precisely, the “provider” of luck, the relief of St. John of Nepomuk. It is one of the most famous sculptures in Europe for bringing luck or granting wishes when touched. The exported relief is normally a permanent part of a bigger sculptural complex on the Charles Bridge in Prague. For the duration of the Expo, was it simply detached and replaced with a copy. According to the Czech press, was the Expo exhibit a success, visited and touched by thousands of visitors.
The moment when the relief has been taken off…
Funny enough, not even this relief is the original! The one made by Jan Brokof (1683) is actually safely stored in the museum of Charles Bridge. If you go to see it, you will notice, that the little head of the poor Nepomuk is not as smoothed as the one that currently resides on the bridge.
Can you guess which of these spent more time on the bridge?
Do you believe that these public “luck bringers” work even if they are removed from their original location? It is usually the power of the legend that makes people believe (even halfheartedly), that it might work. But the legends are usually connected with the place as a well as with the object. At least the one about St. John of Nepomuk is. It has been said, that the poor John – the confessor of the queen Zofie – was punished for his refusal to reveal the contents of the queen’s confessions to the King Wenceslas IV. For his insolence, he was thrown into the river from the Charles Bridge. The legend has it, that the actual spot on the bridge has been marked with a double cross in the bridge side. The historical truth lies somewhere else. It is more likely that John’s unclear dealings between two enemies (the king and the bishop) brought him eventually the highest punishment.
In theory, if the potentially innocent confessor John really has the powers to bring luck, we should only touch the cross in the side of the bridge, right? We used to touch it (more than 20 years ago). Back then, there was no “floating” John relief above it, nor was there the legend about touching the relief on the big Nepomuk sculpture. But that is something, what the Czech cultural minister did not bother investigating.
So, is it possible to export Luck??? What do you think?