Sometimes there are things that we attempt to do because they sound like a good idea and we know they’re ultimately good for us, however, in reality, we’d rather be doing anything BUT! File going to the museum, starting a book club, and running a marathon under that category for me. While I’ve been in a book club (that I ultimately quit), have never run a marathon (and will never attempt to), I have succeeded in making my museum experiences enjoyable ones. Whether you can appreciate, understand, or simply love art makes no difference. I’ve figured out a way that even the most cynical among you can enjoy the museum.
After years of living in New York and traveling around the world, surrounded by some of the worlds most beautiful and renowned art I wanted to be able to truly appreciate my experience at the museum without having to fake it. These tips came in handy after recently spending the weekend at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Had I been a novice at this museum thing I may have felt overwhelmed, but I used the methods I’d learned throughout the years and it was one of the BEST days I’ve had in a long time. Read on to pick up some tips of your own…
Mix a Little Fartsy with your Artsy
In other words don’t take the experience too seriously. If a painting is funny then laugh, if the sight of a naked sculpture makes you giggle then GIGGLE! Art doesn’t have to be so serious and it’s this idea that you’ve got to be a snobby tight wad who takes the whole thing super seriously is way passe. Art is about transcendence, transcendence of race, sex, and socioeconomic status. So come as you are people! Experience it for who and what you are at this moment. So if at this moment you feel like a silly child seeing the human anatomy for the first time, embrace it!
Find Out What Artists are on Display Before You Go
Doing a little light research on the artists being featured will only help to enhance your time at the museum. No I don’t mean study the artists entire catalog. Just read up on the history behind some of their work. That way you have a more well-informed perspective once you get there. I liken it to listening to the latest album of your favorite performer before going to their concert- you feel you can enjoy the music more because you can sing along to the latest tunes.
Sign Up for a Guided Tour
So those people walking around the museum with a gaggle of folks following behind ruminating about the importance of art throughout the years ? No they’re not necessarily on a boring class trip, or on some Meetup group for singles who love art and the occasional hookup. Sometimes, they’re just random people who really love art and want to share their knowledge and passion for art with others. They may also be commissioned by the museum to give walking tours to folks like you and I who want to better understand the pieces that they’re seeing.
Most museums have tour guides who can help you learn the history, motivation and importance of the pieces that you’re seeing. They are usually purveyors of art and have an astounding amount of knowledge just waiting to be unleashed. Join them! Ask questions! Blend in!
4. Find YOUR Motivation
I have to admit the thing I love most about going to the museum is not the art. What I love most is the museum itself, the grandiose architecture, the lighting, the way you can turn down a corridor and the whole space just expands into more space until you’re lost in this whole other world that only exists behind those art filled walls. My motivation is the museum itself. Find yours. Maybe it’s capturing the day through a photographers lens, or maybe it’s that really great gift shop. Whatever your motivation for being there is, find it, embrace it and know that it’s perfectly OK to enjoy that aspect of the experience.
5. Take a Break
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, you’re not expected to see the whole museum in one visit. Plan for breaks! Take a load off and enjoy some people watching. Duck into that cute little cafe for a glass of wine (art is so much more fun with wine BTW). Visit the gift shop. There is no rule that says you have to see every wing of the museum in one visit. Besides the place isn’t going anywhere and that means you can always come back.
6.Pack a Snack
I don’t know about you, but I get parched when I’ve been on my feet all day trying to make sense of the many faces of Pablo Picasso. Having snacks on hand keep your energy up and allow you to take stock of what you have seen and what else you might want to do in the museum. If you have young children with you, chances are it’ll also help them to be less cranky and impatient when you hit that Basquiat exhibit.
7.Ask Yourself These 3 Questions
- When was this made?
- How does this make me feel?
- What materials were used to make this piece?
I find that when I can be more introspective about a piece I feel more connected to it. Knowing when something was made (especially if it was hundreds of year ago) helps me to appreciate it more knowing the limiting technology of the past. Connecting with the feeling of a piece of art brings the focus back to my experience and makes it more of a personal one. If a piece was made with limited materials I find that my appreciation of that piece triples. Start with those 3 questions and you may find yourself more connected to the experience then you thought you’d ever be.
8. Learn Museum Etiquette
There’s nothing worse than pulling out your camera to take a picture only to have a security guard yell “Put yo phone down! No pictures allowed” as everyone stares at you with mixed looks of disdain and embarrassment. No really there’s nothing worse, and I know because it’s happened to me. So do yourself a favor and learn the rules of the road before you embark on your journey.
9. Buy Tickets in Advance
There are literally lines that wrap around the corner for some exhibits and there are some that are ticketed only events. Chances are if it’s a cool exhibit then it is in demand and you’ll want to get your tickets in advance. Take this rain installation at LACMA, tickets are sold out every week. So instead of being surprised and disappointed, plan beforehand!
10.Go After Hours for a Primo Experience