THE ART INSTITUTE —Yawning wearily, Joseph “Joe” Crawford, a security guard at Chicago’s Art Institute museum, gently kissed the last painting on his nightly rounds, The Assumption of the Virgin (Domenikos Theotokopoulous, 1577-79), gently on its restored, gilded frame and climbed down the stairs to turn off the lights and close the museum for the night.
The nightly ritual, which sees a rotation of security personnel stopping by each and every object on display in the museum to lovingly kiss them and whisper “goodnight, sweetie,” has been part of museum protocol since 1987, when then curator Dr. Timothy Sevins started to practice after noticing some of the modern wing “looked tired.”
“Yes, we do have the security staff kiss all the paintings goodnight,” said curator Dr. Linda Luxardo, “but not on the lips. Some of the paintings have very kissable lips, but contact with saliva can damage the paint. We moved to a ‘frame only’ kissing policy when it was discovered the mouth on Picasso’s The Old Guitarist was getting pretty worn down.”
Before switching off the lights in the world-famous museum, Crawford wished the painting pleasant dreams as he always does, saying “goodnight you paintings of old, you kings of art. Goodnight Joseph Cornell boxes, goodnight Sky Above Clouds by Georgia O’Keefe, goodnight Nighthawks—don’t you stay up too late!—goodnight swords and armor, goodnight Moon...by Yoshida Hodaka!”
After locking the front doors, Crawford proceeded to Millennium Park to put a big quilt over Cloud Gate.