When French novelist Marie-Henri Beyle, better known as Stendhal, visited the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy, in the early 19th century, he was so moved after seeing The “Sibyls” of Volterrano that he not only experienced heart palpitations, “the spring of life dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground.”
Fortunately, there was a bank nearby. Otherwise she could never have written “The red and the black”.
The humble museum bench does it all. It provides a place to rest, admire a mystifying painting, ogle the crowd, or check direct messages. Experiencing a Stendhal Syndrome Attack? Cue the bank. Benches also help make museums more accessible to people of all levels of mobility. Artist and accessibility activist based in New York Shannon Finnegan she has done work related to this, including bright blue benches inscribed with text that reads: “This exhibition has asked me to stand for far too long. Sit down if you agree.
Now that I’m of the age where I grunt when I stand up, I really appreciate benches. But not all banks are the same. Some entice the sitter with backs and velvety upholstery; others offer all the comfort of a Calvinist pew, requiring you to sit upright, apparently the ideal posture for experiencing the wrath of God or contemporary video artists.
How Do Museum Benches in the Greater Los Angeles Area Rate? In this first highly scientific report card on museum seating, I sit down and say: