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  • Writer's pictureAli Assareh

What is the most beautiful piece of art you’ve ever experienced?

I asked my network, "What is the most beautiful piece of art you’ve ever experienced?" Below are the answers.

1. "The Pieta in Florence. Michelangelo’s masterpiece (NOT to be confused with his Pieta in the Vatican)" "He was making this for HIS OWN tomb. Here Michelangelo is upset with the quality of the marble. He takes a pick axe to it because it is not as perfect as it needs to be. Jesus is polished, and beautiful...Mary and Nicodemus is crude and unfinished. Just how mortals are to our perfect lords and saviors. In a fit of rage Michelangelo starts to bust it apart, but a Medici stops him. Takes it away and encourages him to forget the imperfection in the marble." I asked, "What is so moving about this to you? Was it the pure beauty of it, when you saw it, or the story? Do you remember how you felt first time you saw it in person?" "I could never forget. It’s the dichotomy of the stones in finished and crude (much like “sin” and “grace”) who is finished and who isn’t, mothers broken heart of her only child/that child that was gifted to not only her but us. It’s Nicodemus grieving and yet consoling Mary Magdalene losing her lover and “god”. You are smacked into silence and deep contemplation of your life whence you look upon it. Heart wrenching that he was lovingly handled when taken down from the cross. And then Michelangelo takes his axe to Jesus (see his chest/nipple) because it wasn’t good enough for Jesus or his own tomb."

2. "Van Gogh's Starry Night at MOMA NYC." "It was like being sucked into the story of his life, with the Don McLean song running through my head. I cried."

3. "The entire Vatican." "The entire Vatican was transcendent. I’m not a religious person so I can’t comment on that, but the historical and artistic magnitude and significance of the space was borderline overwhelming. I think I blacked out when we walked into the Sistine Chapel."

4. "The Chagall Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago."

"I went to school there and would spend hours sketching on the bench in front of them."

5. "Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) by Felix Gonzales Torres"

"It's so moving when you know the story. The candy pile is representative of Gonzales Torres' partner Ross, who passed away from AIDS. Over time, people take candy, diminishing Ross' body."

6. "The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman"

"The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman is one of the most beautiful buildings / works of art I have ever seen."

7. "All Nine of Beethoven’s Symphonies." "Without a doubt, listening to all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies performed live over a span of about 11 hours (with 4 hours of breaks...) I do this every year on New Years Eve Day. How to put it into words? It’s just the harmonies and melodies and the feelings they invoke. The perfect simplicity of the first, the playfulness of the second, the innovation of the third...the fifth has always been my personal favorite. The sixth probably comes the closest to painting an actual picture in your mind, because it is full of motifs that evoke, nature, birds singing, storm clouds gathering, etc. And of course the ninth — maybe the most celebrated piece of music in the world. Those 11 hours are an amazing journey.

There is a great set of lectures available from The Great Courses called The Symphonies of Beethoven by Robert Greenberg. It’s 32 one-hour lectures but really good if you are so inclined. Greenberg is a very knowledgeable and entertaining lecturer."

8. "Watching Interstellar for the first time in IMAX."

"Tough to succinctly describe here, but it 1) wowed me with cinematography like never before - sort of the way Jurassic Park did to one as a child, and 2) brought me to a healthy place with a decades-long internal debate (science vs religion). It was a SciFi flick but a totally surreal, religious experience for me. Went back 2 more times to watch it while it was still in theaters, and since then have probably watched it over a hundred times. It’s my #1 movie of all-time, and in my humble, mildly musically inclined opinion, also happens to have the one of the greatest modern-day scores."

9. "The Rape of Proserpina by Bernini."

"It is in galleria Borghese in Rome. It is just incredible what he did with the mármol. Has to be seen in person to do it justice. It hit me when I saw it. It made me feel like humans are/were amazing. Like this man had such an ability to make mármol look like real skin. Like humanity has shifted away from what truly matters. It just made me absolutely breathless."

10. "The Fifth Day of Creation by Mahmoud Farshchian"

"I saw Farshchian‘s art for the first time during a family trip to Mashhad, 27 years ago. There was an exhibition of his artwork in Ferdowsi’s Mausoleum. I was amazed by colors, details, and feelings that he was able to express through his art. It was heavenly."

11. "Mozart’s Requiem." 12. "Bach’s B Minor Mass"

13. "Jackson Pollock’s #1."

"I had already seen it depicted in photos and in movies, but it doesn’t disappoint. You absolutely lose yourself in this piece until there’s nothing left but raw emotion."

14. "Picasso’s Guernica,”

"The sheer scale literally looms large over you and completely overtakes you, commands your focus and attention and dares you to not be moved by the atrocity it depicts."

15. "The Fall of Lucifer at the Prado"

"It really sat with me for a while."

16. "The dynamic exhibition space for Emilio Vedova, designed by Renzo Piano for the late artist in Venezia."

"The most profound marriage between an amazing abstractionist’s art, reclaimed architecture (Venetian century’s old salt warehouse), and new ideas in art exhibition (dynamic, in motion, performance). Simply sublime. And my idea of spiritual heaven."

17. "La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, by Gaudi"

"The first time I visited I only saw the outside because the inside was closed due to its ongoing renovation/construction. I thought it was impressive and weird but didn't think much more of it than that. The second time I got to go inside and I nearly fell on the floor. That kind of architecture, space, color and light has to be experienced to be believed."

Another person echoed: "La Sagrada Familia is one of the only times in my life that I can remember being rendered speechless by a piece of art / architecture. It is absolutely stunning."

18. "No. 14, Mark Rothko at SF MOMA"

"The first time I saw a giant Rothko, I’ll never forget. It wasn’t the painting itself, but I remember *getting* art in that moment. I was in a room and I turned around and there it was — and I suddenly *felt* a certain way; and I realized in that moment what art is meant to do. I realized it’s meant to make you feel a certain way. It’s not about the lines or drawings or mastery of paint etc etc (although all those are extremely interesting craft-wise too) — but it’s about how it makes you feel. It made me look at art, especially a lot of modern and abstract art differently."

19. "Nighthawks, Edward Hopper at Art Institute of Chicago."

I saw it; and I kept, and kept, and kept going back to it, throughout the day."

20. "The Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, CA"

"It was a beautiful day altogether. At the end of our visit we swung by the rose garden area. It was so beautiful so we all laid down to relax for a little. After a few minutes I heard some commotion so I sat up — and there was a six year old girl with one family (with her Abuela and aunties and everything) and a six month old puppy with another couple; and the girl and the puppy were just playing in grass like crazy!!! Jumping up and down together, running zig zags together; then falling down together and totally out of breath! Then getting up again and running around again, and then falling down again out of breath — they did it for 6 or 7 cycles, and that 5 mins was like LIFE at once for me. It was so absolutely beautiful, pure, joy, love, life — I’ll never forget it. I think the space the gardens created, the feeling, the vibe, led to that magical moment. So it was beautiful."

21. "Being Here at Burning Man 2015"

"It was an incredibly beautiful, powerful experience, especially as an oasis surrounded by madness. Most of the best art I’ve ever seen has been at BM. The concentration + density of contemporary artistic expression and artistic resources is unmatched by pretty much anything else on earth."

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