The Louvre, the MET, the MOMA and the Carnegie … all historical, captivating museums that are also seemingly overwhelming. When you find yourself at a museum and feel completely overwhelmed, bored or bothered, it may be because you are not viewing the museum for what it offers you. VALLEY has cultivated a comprehensive guide for the art of slowing down in museums and how you can learn to better your museum experience overall.
Oftentimes when you visit a world-renowned museum like the Warhol or the MET, it is easy to feel pressured to rush through it and see all the most famous or notable paintings that are displayed there. This is not only stressful, but it also takes away from the true nature of why the art is there in the first place.
James O. Pawelski, the director of Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, once compared libraries to museums. You would never go into a library and rush around all the books they have just to make sure you find “Moby Dick” and Shakespeare — you are looking for a book that suits your needs. So what if we started treating museums the same way? What if instead of making sure you find the “Mona Lisa” or “Starry Night” you instead slow down, and stumble upon a painting that speaks to you?
You Begin To See What You’re Looking At
Once you begin taking the steps to slow down and consider the art in front of you, you may find that you have actually found a piece that you really connect with. Is it post-modern? Impressionist? What medium did the artist use? What is the story behind the work? Perhaps you’ll even begin creating a narrative behind the piece. Seeing, not looking, is what connects a viewer to a painting. Art is all centered around interpretation; each interpretation is something that makes the work personal to you. You may even be able to find something of yourself in the work. This is the purpose of museums. This is why artists make art.
Art For Healing
Whenever you take the time to ingest and marvel at the works of art that surround you in a museum, it can be quite a grounding experience. The piece of art and whatever connects you to it grounds you to the present. For a few moments, you are disconnected from the hardships of the past and any concerns about the future. You are truly in the moment, just soaking up everything the work has to offer you.
In your grounding, you might even find yourself being connected to the people around you.
Art is a universal language, so it should really come as no surprise when you feel a connection with the people in the museum with you — especially if they are looking at the same piece of art. Despite any differences, you and this stranger both found something worthwhile in this painting to look at. All at once you are completely independent yet fully connected to them, each of your respective interpretations unique yet shared by your common interest in the work. We cannot think of anywhere else this same feeling of shared presence and comraderie yet independence is felt — it is something truly unique to museums. It does not matter if you are young or old or if you speak the same language or not; art still manages to touch your soul. Only by slowing down and being deliberate as you walk through museums will you be able to experience this transcendence of barriers.
So the next time you are sitting around with nothing to do or if you and your friends are feeling exhausted from doing the same things, try going to a museum. Be deliberate and reflective. Take your time following your gut to pieces of art that you feel drawn to. And you just might realize that you actually have a newfound love for going to the museum.
We would love to know how you feel about museums and if you follow any advice from this article the next time you find yourself at one. Tell us your thoughts on our Instagram or Twitter @VALLEYmag!