How long is 6 seconds?

by Karen Topakian

According to a study by the Brooklyn Museum, the average visitor looks at a piece of art for 6 seconds. Really? Only 6 seconds?

6 seconds to scan the face of the Mona Lisa?

6 seconds to stare at Picasso’s Guernica?

6 seconds to gaze at Warhol’s Marilyn?

6 seconds to enjoy Monet’s Water Lilies?

6 seconds to view Michelangelo’s Statute of David?

That seems too short of a time span to enjoy such masterpieces. Or is it?

I asked myself what else takes 6 seconds.  So I could compare. Here’s what my quick Google search uncovered.

According to Zen habits, 6 seconds is the length of time to experience one relaxing breath. 2 seconds breathing in through your nose. 4 seconds exhaling through your mouth.

Globally, tobacco products kill every 6 seconds

Every 6 seconds someone is infected with HIV.

The Hewlett Packard fax 2140 can transmit a page of copy in 6 seconds.

Orkhan Ibadov says you can hypnotize someone in 6 seconds.

One way to read an EKG strip is to count the number of R waves in a 6 second strip and multiply by 10.

Apparently a lot can happen in 6 seconds. Doesn’t art deserve more of our attention than a fax machine?

The SF Chron trumps the NY Times



by Karen Topakian

For the first time in years, I read the SF Chronicle before the New York Times.

Two front-page headlines caught my eye: the death of Don Fisher, the GAP co-founder and the upcoming 6-week test to reroute traffic from Market Street.

The Don Fisher story garnered my attention because only hours before his death, the fate of his and his wife’s treasured modern art collection had finally become public. The SF MOMA had won the prize.

Their 1100 piece collection was not an abstract notion to me. I had actually seen several pieces in 2001. In January of that year, while attending a meeting at the GAP headquarters on the Embarcadero, a representative invited all those interested to view the collection, which was normally held under lock and key. As a lover of modern and contemporary art, I joined the tour.

Hanging on a white wall, Warhol’s Chairman Mao stared back at me.  Chuck Close portraits, Roy Lichtenstein’s cartoons, Sol LeWitt’s colorful geometrics filled the galleries.

I walked away from that viewing surprised at the breadth of his collection and angered that it was only available to those whom he invited to view it. And I know I told the story many times about the unfairness of confining these works to the selected few. But now that would be a different story. One that would play out without him.

The second front-page story, about the temporary closing of Market Street to private vehicles, transported me to a favorite text of environmentalists: Ecotopia, written in 1975 by Ernest Callenbach. This futuristic novel set in 1999, (19 years after Northern California, Oregon and Washington seceded from the rest of the US.) amongst other innovative notions, turns Market Street into a tree-lined thoroughfare, pedestrian walkway, and bicycle route accessible only to public transit not private vehicles. The city moves us one step closer to a car free future.   

As for today’s front page New York Times stories – they covered the mundane: potential sanctions against Iran, swine flu, and the newest Cheney on the block.