Friday, September 17

How Do You Look at Art?

These days with summer ending and school starting up again, it has been a little slower around the museum.  Last week I was giving a gallery talk to two visitors (yes, just two), and one of them commented that they were about to take a trip to Italy and asked, "Can you give us any tips about how to look at ancient art?"  It was an excellent question, given that not all museums have the kind of in-gallery educational programming you find at the Villa, and these visitors wanted to be prepared to get the most out of their experience on their own.

It just so happens that over the summer we educators at the museum had just had a discussion amongst ourselves on just that topic--how do you look at art?  We divided forces and each group came up with a "top ten" list of tips on how to look at art in a museum setting.  The list below, which I shared with those visitors that day, is the result of my group's efforts.  Naturally, every museum professional will likely have a different take on the subject, but I think the list below is direct and simple and therefore easily used.
  1. Remember to read the label LAST.
  2. Do not enter a museum or gallery with the intention to see everything.
  3. Go to an artwork that interests you or attracts you.
  4. Find the best vantage point (try different ones).
  5. Take your time and challenge yourself to look longer.
  6. How does it fit into the surroundings?  (Take a look at the gallery installation and what other artworks are on display in the same gallery.)
  7. What details draw you in?
  8. What is it made of?
  9. What do you understand and what don't you understand about it?
  10. Be open to silence and conversation--balance your own reflection and sharing your thoughts with others.
Keep in mind that these are just suggestions, not hard and fast rules, but they will get you off to a good start if you're interested in getting a little something more from your next museum visit.

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