1. Get into the mood
The term museum is scary. We have a vision of the museum as something huge, extremely boring and tiring. We can’t have fun in a museum the same way we have fun in a nightclub. There are many reasons and ways to go to museums, and although they are all different, museums have something in common : Is it a place where we are safe, protected from the outside world. Going to the museums is precious for us. We can go if we’re lonely, if we’re depressed, alone or with friends. We can also go if we’re happy. Museums are spaces of peace and if you are willing to visit it with an open mind, museum are open to all. You just have to know how to respect it and you will never feel excluded again. Museums do not belong to only one community.
2. Avoid « Museum Legs »
Have you ever heard about the Museum Legs expression ? Museum Legs is something you’ve already experimented if you’ve been to big museums. Museum legs usually happen if you trample from one artwork to another. Your trampling makes you tired. To avoid museum legs, walk slowly and quietly but continuously and stop only when some artwork seriously appeals to you. Then, in front of this artwork, do move : step back, go to the left, to the right, look at it from different angles. Then, keep moving forward. If you like this artwork, you can come back a little later. The technique of permanent movement will help you avoid small steps, stops, small steps, stops that tires your legs very quickly. Don’t wait to be exhausted for sitting down, as it will be even harder to get up. If the museum is very big, sit down every 20 minutes, but don’t fall into the trap of sitting at every bench that comes up to you. You shall prefer to rest after the visit and stop somewhere, in the museum hall, in some café. Find a cosy location for 10-15 minutes and once you are at home, extend your legs up the wall in order to recover good blood circulation. Final trick ? Put your legs in cold water.
3. Try to understand the artwork context before the artwork content
Depending on the museum and the historical art movements which are exhibited in the different rooms, you should always try to have some reference points before you look at the artworks. Labels explanation at the entrance of the rooms is often few understandable for contemporary art but well done for previous times. There are also free brochures, and now there is the fabulous Internet. Ask yourself the good questions. What were the issues of the time ? The political trends ? Few information can be sufficient. Look for something appealing to you, something projecting you back to the time when the artworks were created. Understanding the context main lines will allow you to better understand the artworks themselves. Art trends, representations and techniques are constantly evolving depending on history. To see a work of art properly, it is absolutely necessary to embrace the culture that produced it. We really need a common thread to examine and understand medieval religious art, as well as minimalist art. What is misunderstood now may be admired in the future, and what was very in vogue in the past may now look meaningless. The context will allow you to see the work on a 180° timeline.
4. Listen everywhere to the catchy information
In museums, there are lot of movement in general and you are not alone. Talking and listening could be way to approach artworks. Try to be aware of what is happening around you, listen to what people are telling about the works, make connections with things you have already heard, seen on TV. Don’t forget that you have the museum workers, the guards of the works, the art guides who can give you the information you need.
5. But also, be free not to search for information at all
Sometimes, we don’t want to make an effort. We don’t necessarily want to know what’s going on, what happened or why it happened like that. We’re lazy. We don’t want to get carried away, we’re already so overwhelmed with information in our daily lives and we already have enough to think about that we’re not necessarily operational to take a close interest in the artworks that we’re watching. In museums, you have the right to be like that. There is no imposed time which is means that we can stay from ten minutes to five hours. There is no one to watch us, we are autonomous and free. If you feel lazy, just take it on, don’t be ashamed that you don’t look absolutely invested and interested in what you’re looking at but try not to be in rejection. If the information comes to you, don’t reject it, even if you don’t want to process it now. Be free to not be systematic, you are not the museum’s guide !
6. Challenge yourself
When we don’t know what to say about a work of art, whether it’s old or contemporary, we generally said I like it or I don’t like it. From now, these two radical thoughts must no longer remain. Why ? First, because art does not always have the sole purpose of our pleasure and to strengthen our opinions about things and the functions of art itself. Secondly, our vision of what we love in art evolves, as soon as we question the object itself. If we spent our lives determining the quality of a work on our own opinion of I like or I dislike, our opinion, our mind will hardly open up, or evolving. So, start by challenging yourself on the reasons why you like this work of art or not, argue. If it is contemporary art, you can’t use the argument he laughs at us. That is why it is important to learn about the context. This will help you develop your critical thinking skills. Of course when you argue, it doesn’t have to be scientifically referenced, use your own feelings, your own words, and don’t be ashamed on how the object makes you feel !
7. Last details that will help you
→ Go with confortable shoes and clothes. Don’t be with too many bags and stuff.
→ Have your camera fully charged
→ Take water
→ If you are super organized, take online tickets
→ If you are a student, don’t forget your Student Card
This article is inspired on Johan Idema’s book How to Visit an Art Museum: Tips for a Truly Rewarding Visit, where the author develops 32 tips, with images and quotes.http://johanidema.net/en/