Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"An Art Amateur's Guide to enjoying Art Museums"

1    Where do you want to go?
Selecting what type of art museum, and which exhibits you are actually interested in, is the first step to a great museum experience. If you are an art amateur, you may want to start with a classic museum over any type of neighborhood gallery show. Narrow your interests down by answering the following questions:
1.      Am I more interested in Modern Art or Classic Art?
2.      Do I want to see paintings? statues? furniture? jewelry? Etc.
3.      What area of the world, or time period, do I find most interesting?
If you cannot answer any of those questions, I would recommend always going to see the “Highlights” or the “Most famous” pieces from the museum. You can usually get a guide at the Info Desk when you pick up your visitors’ map.

2       What to see?
Once you've picked a starting place, there are a few ways to decide “what” you actually want to see.
·         Follow the crowds – you’ll find the most iconic pieces this way, or you can always note them by how many audio guide symbols are on the plaques / how prominently it is displayed in a room.
·         Look for something familiar – find those pieces you think you might have seen before somewhere in a textbook, classroom, maybe a movie?
·         Go where you feel drawn – what catches your eye? What pieces spark your interest from a first glance?

3       How to see?
People gaze at art pieces for varying amounts of time. Some pieces may only elicit a quick glance from you, while others may have you standing there for a while. Your interest, your time, and if there are benches in the room will all factor into how long you spend in the museum. However, my tip is to accept that YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SEE IT ALL  (Unless it happens to be a small museum).

If you are a new-be to the world of art, you may have no idea what you are looking for when you look at a painting or sculpture. So here are my best tips for you:
  • 1.      Read the plaques of the pieces you find most interesting – take down the Titles and artists.
  • 2.      If it is a painting you’ve never encountered before, ask yourself “What drew me to this specific painting?” and then ask “Why?” For example, if you are drawn to the size of the painting, the colors, or the subject matter, ask“Why do these things affect how I view or enjoy the art?” “What, or who, does it make me think of?”
  • 3.      If it is a “famous” or “Iconic” piece, you may want to start with the question: “Why is this so famous?” “What makes it stand out from any others?” “Do I like it? Or not?”
  • 4.      Of course, you can always take a tour or listen to an audio guide. Do you know a friend who loves art? Bring them along and have them share their knowledge! Art has lots of symbolism, so it can be helpful to have someone point that out to you.
  • 5.      Get close and then stand back. Sadly, you can’t get TOO close to the paintings because the guards will have a heart attack. However, it’s important to really “experience” an original painting by seeing the physical paint. In fact, if you come across a Van Gogh or a Seurat, you MUST get close to the painting in order to see the brush techniques. It will change the way you see their paintings forever!  But, just as it is important to get up close to the work, sometimes (especially with large canvases) the beauty is simply in standing back and taking in the work’s breadth.

Don’t come to an art museum tired, hungry, or thirsty. It often involves lots of walking and standing, which can leave you hungry and tired. Pack some snacks if possible because museum coffee shops are often overpriced. Take breaks! Eat, sit, relax. Don’t feel like you have to push through the whole time.
Don’t overlook the museum itself. Sometimes the actual building can be as interesting and as beautiful as the artwork.

You don’t have to like it, but you should at least consider it.
This is especially true for modern art, but could be applied to any style. Even if you decide that you don’t like a piece, a style, or even art in general, you should at least consider why someone else might love it or find it interesting. Sometimes all it takes it looking at a piece in a different way. This simple thing will really enhance your viewing experience.