“When you go to the library … you don’t walk along the shelves looking at the spines of the books and on your way out tweet to your friends, ‘I read 100 books today!’” Yet that’s essentially how many people experience a museum. “They see as much of art as you see spines on books … You can’t really see a painting as you’re walking by it.”
-Stephanie Rosenbloom, The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum
If I’m ambling through a museum I’m familiar with, I tend to glance around and head towards individual things that catch my eye for a closer look, and more or less ignore everything else (apologies to the curators!). A combination of fast and slow looking. It’s fun to do by myself, but also with a friend because they get enticed by things I might not have noticed.
When I was in the V&A Museum in London a few weeks ago, I meandered through the silver gallery and discovered a small, silver paintbox. I can’t tell you what else was in that cabinet though, except that they were small household items belonging to women.
If you pay to enter an art exhibition or are somewhere you’re unlikely to get again, it’s hard not to feel you need to see everything. In large museums it’s almost inevitable that visual overload and tired feet stop the enjoyment at some point. That’s when I try to find somewhere to sit, and often end up looking at things I might not have otherwise. If there were more benches, I’d probably do more slow looking.