Louvre Exhibit Examines the "Infinity of Lists"

Umberto Eco, Louvre museum, The Infinity of Lists
Guest curator Umberto Eco at the Louvre.  
[Credit: Lea Crespi, 2009.]
PARIS — A few days into 2010 and how many of us are sticking to our list of New Year's resolutions? We all make lists, especially at this time of year - resolutions, gifts for loved ones, groceries for holiday dinners. Bloggers especially love a good list. Even artists make visual lists in their paintings.

This concept of lists, as they've evolved throughout time in art and culture, is the subject of an exhibit at the Louvre museum, Mille e tre. Guest curated by Italian author Umberto Eco, the exhibition presents not only ancient and contemporary artworks, but a program of cultural events centered around the theme described as “The Infinity of Lists".

“The subject of lists has been a theme of many writers from Homer onwards. My great challenge was to transfer it to painting and music and to see whether I could find equivalents in the Louvre, because frankly when I suggested the subject I had no idea how I would write about visual lists,” explained Eco.

Why do we seem to obsess over lists? Humans attempt to grasp the incomprehensible through lists in the form of things like catalogs, dictionaries and museum collections, says Eco.

In a recent NPR interview (click player to listen), Eco discusses his list philosophy. Marie-Laure Berndac, a curator at the Louvre, also discussed the exhibit. "There's this kind of obsession in the list, because a list is never exhaustive," she said. Berndac explained that lists have been found everywhere since man was able to write, even on hieroglyphics on ancient pieces of Egyptian art.

And when asked what book Eco would bring on a desert island? His response was the ultimate list - the phone book, of course.

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