Collected from a series published in Intelligent Life magazine, Treasure Palaces: Great Writers Visit Great Museums features short essays by 23 writers on the museum of their choice. The assignment, as the collection's editor Maggie Fergusson explains in the preface, was for the writers to weave in a bit of biography to explain their love or distaste for the museum they visited. It is, on the surface, pleasant, not unlike taking a stroll through a museum itself.
But because the essays are by writers and not art critics, an extra interpretive layer has been added to each essay. Instead of deconstructing each painting or each museum the way a critic might, the authors spend the bulk of their essays exploring the nature of art and the way we perceive it. In her essay on the Musée Rodin in Paris, novelist Allison Pearson (I Think I Love You) writes, "Dead people had felt these things; and the living went on feeling them. Rodin's sculptures made that connection for us; they continued to struggle and gasp and yearn and caress beneath their marmoreal skins."
While each essay is written in such a way as to place the reader in the hallowed halls of the world's great museums by describing them in detail, the collection offers so much more. As patrons are wont to do at a museum, one could simply move quickly through these essays. But Treasure Palaces asks the art lover to sit and think for a while. --Josh Potter