Slow down, it’s “Slow Art Day” at five San Francisco museums and galleries (and more than 200 others worldwide)— Look at five artworks for 10 minutes each, then meet and discuss.The average time spent looking at a piece of art in a museum is less than 20 seconds and continuing to drop (according to stats provided by the initiators of Slow Art Day). On Saturday, April 12, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Chandler Fine Art and USF’s Mary and Thatcher Gallery (all in San Francisco) and dozens of other museums and galleries around the world will participate in Slow Art Day. The concept is simple and similar to meditation— look at five artworks for 10 minutes each without doing anything else, then meet and discuss. Just like the National Day of Unplugging, which encourages people to shut-off their smartphones and socialize face-to-face, Slow Art Day’s mission is to enable deeper connections with art that don’t happen in the daily whirl that our fast-paced lives have become.
I recently spent some time looking at Georgia O’Keeffe’s oil painting Lake George, currently on view in the special exhibition Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George at the de Young and after a few minutes, my awareness really began to shift.
I plan to visit the Legion of Honor’s new show from the National Gallery of Art, Intimate Impressionism (on view through August 3, 2014), which features some 70 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterworks which illuminate the process of painting directly in nature. The temporary closure of the National Gallery’s East Building for major renovation and expansion has made possible the rare opportunity to see this select group of paintings in San Francisco, the exhibition’s first venue. And I’ll also revisit Matisse from SFMOMA (through September 7, 2014) which features 23 paintings, drawings and bronzes from SFMOMA’s acclaimed collection and two paintings and two drawings from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s own important Matisse holdings.
Here are few tips for embarking on your Slow Art Day experience:
- Choose a piece of art that appeals to you at first glance and draws you in. You’re likely to stay engaged for a longer period of time if you have that initial reaction.
- Relax, and let your eye wander over the artwork. Spend more time on details that are particularly interesting.
- Observe from different distances and angles. Take note of what changes occur when you move around.
- Notice how you feel, and what emotions the artwork brings up.
- If you get bored, ask yourself why you chose this piece of art. Or pick a specific line or color and follow it throughout the artwork.
- Afterwards, share your thoughts! It might be interesting to hear how others may have had very similar or dramatically different experiences. It’s also fun to try and draw a sketch after you’re finished looking—just a few extra minutes of observation might really create a lasting impression of a piece of art
If you’re the type who needs structure, both the de Young and Legion of Honor have two rounds of Slow Art Day programs 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Learn more about Slow Art Day at slowartday.com.
- San Francisco, California – Chandler Fine Art
- San Francisco, California – de Young Museum
- San Francisco, California – Legion of Honor
- San Francisco, California – Mary and Carter Thacher Gallery at the University of San Francisco
- San Francisco, California – The Contemporary Jewish Museum
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