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Yesterday, I was out with a girl at a fairly large art museum. We were in an "abstract" or "contemporary" or whatever exhibit (she chose this museum, I usually tend towards science or history museums), in an empty room criticizing a urinal which someone had ripped out of a wall and called art.

One of the guards appeared out of a smaller, adjacent room with very dim lights, and beckoned us over into the dark room. He was kind of scruffy looking, graying hair, and was well overdue for a shave, probably in his fifties or sixties. He said, "come here I want to show you something". I believe he also called the girl I was with a "sir", which she gets called fairly often because she dresses kind of masculinely.

Anyways, we hesitantly step into his dark room, because we're a little afraid, being two young women (early 20s) confronted by a creepy old man. There's a slit in the wall, and the guard instructs us to look through the slit. I look first, and there's a statue of a woman lying on the ground, full color and completely naked. It looked to me like the statue might have been sexually assaulted. I back away and give her a weird look with my face, and then she takes a turn looking through the slit. The guard then proceeds to try to explain about the artist who made the whole creepy room and how he pretended to retire from art while he made it. I wasn't listening really, because I was managing the space incase he tried to attack me. My date however was nodding along to the guard's lecture about this artist. When he stopped talking, I did my best to dismiss us and leave the room and return to an exhibit with more people in it.

So my question is, should I have handled the situation better? How could I have politely dismissed us before entering the dark room? How to excuse us as quickly as possible?

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    Sounds like you were at a Duchamp exhibition.. How did your date feel about the interaction? – Em C Dec 3 '17 at 1:06
  • It might have been Duchamp. I wasn't paying to much attention, but it sounds like the same name. I think she was also creeped out a bit, but maybe a bit less than I was. – redbow_kimee Dec 3 '17 at 1:46
  • I think apaul was on the right track, Duchamp is known for being... "edgy", shall we say :P He's pretty well known in the art world so I was thinking your date may have been more prepared for that. – Em C Dec 3 '17 at 3:18
  • @redbow_kimee I believe this site is about what you saw. But I didn't find anything about the guard being part of the show! – Legisey Jan 17 '18 at 10:20
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Sorry to minimize your discomfort, but museums are typically among the safest places to be. Wall to wall 24/7 security coverage and all that... I would guess that you'd be statistically more likely to be assaulted inside a police station. Although... That doesn't say much... But you know what I mean.

The exhibit you saw sounds like it was deliberately designed to elicit that sort of reaction. To be unsettling. Art does that sometimes. To be honest, some of my favorite art does that sometimes. I wouldn't be surprised if the creepy looking guard was actually a "part of" the exhibit. You could test this theory by returning to the museum to see if he similarly lures others in for a similar effect.

With all of that out of the way...

You're always free to say "No thanks" and keep walking in most any situation when a stranger wants to engage with you about, well, anything really.

I would take this particular experience as a one off though. Something that makes for an interesting story to tell over drinks, but not something that's at all likely to happen again at another museum.

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    Thanks for the answer. It had occurred to me that this specific guard had been stationed there with instructions to "be creepy", but only after I had left. – redbow_kimee Dec 3 '17 at 1:47
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    @Obie Haven't seen much performance art have you ;) – apaul Dec 3 '17 at 2:25
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    @Obie2.0 it's inside a museum. People would probably be aware it's supposed to be art. – Erik Dec 3 '17 at 6:30
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    @redbow_kimee: Or, it could also simply be a guard posted to that station in order to get people to look (I would assume that not many visitors would be peeking through a slit in a dark room, without being prompted to do so), and the guard just happen to also have an unusual look about him. The two are not necessarily related. – Flater Dec 4 '17 at 9:30
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    @Obie2.0 it was in a museum, but my understanding is that museum guards are there to protect the exhibits, not to be a part of them. – redbow_kimee Dec 5 '17 at 1:17

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