Want to get more out of your art gallery visit? Start by looking at less

Art galleries are places of splendour, home to things that can amaze, inspire and challenge you, fuel your imagination, and expand your view of the world. For some people, anyway. 

For others, better words to describe a gallery might include: exhausting, perplexing, intimidating, irrelevant, and dare we say it, boring.

Here are six simple tips to make your next visit more fun, and help you look at art in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Don’t try to see everything

If you’ve ever come out of a gallery in need of a good lie down, you might be trying to see too much.(Unsplash: Mitchell Luo)

When you step inside a gallery, you can feel pressure to see every single thing – room after room after room – and when you stagger out a few hours later you’re completely spent.

Imagine if we did the same thing at the cinema – it makes no sense!

Justin Paton, the head curator of international art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, says there’s no shame in only looking at the things that really grab your attention.

Justin Paton
Justin Paton says he is now fairly ruthless when he visits galleries, only looking at a handful of artworks.(Supplied)

“I think you walk through openly, you walk through curiously, you walk through with your antennae up,” he told ABC RN’s The Art Show.

“Look for that physical response — it might be adoration, it might be arousal, it might be revulsion.

“Those bodily cues, those ungovernable responses, are exactly what should make us look twice, make us look a third time.

“See what the wall label says about it, and if that doesn’t correspond with the way you’re feeling about it, look again, go and find out more.”

You might pick one or two things in each room to look at (be ruthless!), or focus your visit on a special exhibition or one part of a permanent collection.

There’s also the option of visiting smaller local galleries rather than a major institution.

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