Can I offer you a cocktail with that painting?

There’s a new trend in Italy that can best be called “museum happy hour”.

How nice it will be if someone tries to take you along with them and tell what is what and explain everything about things in a museum in detail.  This article is an important source to check it.  Sometimes you might want to know things but when you are not quite sure whom to ask this tour will be the best. Already present in the USA in years past, it consists of museums attempting to attract new and returning visitors by proposing evening openings combined with music, food, and drinks. Is this a brilliant concept on the part of art museums, or are they selling out?

In my opinion, it’s great. I like attending these events and I think that the concept is in keeping with the historic uses of art. For this reason I’m keeping a list of museum happy hours or “aperitivo”’s in Italy and worldwide.

It is only in modern times that “art” has been relegated to public museums. The ancient Romans had statues on their temples but also in their gardens; they had mosaics representing anything from deities to daily life on their bathroom floors. In the Renaissance, historiated maiolica as well as mythological canvases graced dining room walls; we know for sure that certain paintings and sculptures were considered “conversation pieces” and that elaborate verbal games were devised around them. The function of art in the domestic sphere has always been both to beautify and to generate conversation in a natural setting.

When we remove these works from the domestic sphere – be it a modern design teapot or a 15th-century statue of a putto – and put it in the sterile setting of the museum, we’re not just losing “original context” (a common trope in art history), we’re losing the social norms of comportment that took place around that object.

It is entirely natural to eat and drink around the objects we now call art – within reason of course, since we don’t want to spill our Cabernet on a Titian. Furthermore, food and drink help put us at ease – they create a convivial situation through which conversation naturally flows.

Did museums suddenly undertsand this subtlety, or did they start offering “museum happy hour” simply to compensate for ever-diminishing ticket-sales? Either way, it’s good by me.

Tempted? See our List of Museum Happy Hours!