It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau
Founded in 2010, Slow Art Day is a global event (more than 1,500 museums and galleries have participated) with a simple mission: help more people discover for themselves the joy of looking at and loving art.
When people look slowly at a piece of art they make discoveries. The most important discovery they make is that they can see and experience art without an expert (or expertise).
And that’s an exciting discovery. It unlocks passion and creativity and helps to create more art lovers.
We now publish annual reports that showcase the inspiring work of educators and curators from around the world.
In an art world too often driven by money or the latest technology (NFTs, for example), Slow Art Day is passionately retro. We advocate an ancient practice – one at least as old as the paleolithic cave paintings in Lascaux, France – and that is this: slow down and look.
Neuroscience has confirmed what ancient artists always knew: we see only a tiny fraction of what is around us. To widen the lens and allow more in, we must slow down.
And it turns out that slowing down not only helps us see more, but, as mentioned above, it brings with it the joy of discovering more. What sounds like a possibly boring act (if watching paint dry is boring, then watching dry paint must be even more so), is quite the opposite. But we cannot convince people of this, they must experience it themselves.
In that insight, lies another. Slow looking is a radically inclusive act.
We do not seek to tell educators how to design their slow looking events, nor have the educators tell their participants how to see (or that they need an expert education first).
Rather, we advocate what The Washington Post wrote about in 2021: Slow Art Day and the act of slow looking are radically inclusive experiences where participants include themselves.
The art world has too long been dominated by the notion that you need to know before you look. In other words, that art is an exclusive domain for the already-educated.
Humans need nothing special before they begin to see art – only to slow down.
Interestingly, we have found that once people slow down and begin to look, then that triggers a curiosity to learn more – and that is when the books or expert lectures can be valuable; that is when ordinary people are motivated by their own interest to learn more.
In this way, slow looking events are fundamentally non-patronizing and radically inclusive.
How does it actually work?
One day each year – April 15th in 2023- people all over the world visit local museums and galleries to look at art slowly. Participants look at five works of art for 10 minutes each and then meet together over lunch to talk about their experience. That’s it. Simple by design, the goal is to focus on the art and the art of seeing.
In fact, Slow Art Day works best when people look at the art on their own slowly and then meet up to discuss the experience (though some hosts decide to do the discussion right in the gallery).
Noted above, this 2021 Washington Post article provides an excellent overview of Slow Art Day and our philosophy of radical inclusion.
One of the first major features on our movement – ARTNews‘ 2010 article, Slow Down You Look Too Fast – also provides an excellent overview (see more featured press from BBC, Wall Street Journal, Artsy, and others).
How does an institution get involved?
Staff members at museums, galleries, or other art venues around the globe raise their hands (and register on this site) to host a Slow Art Day event. The host is responsible for organizing their individual Slow Art Day event. The Slow Art Day team provides the tools and support for hosts to run their own events.
By the numbers
– Over 1,500 individual Slow Art Day events have taken place since our official launch in 2010
– Slow Art Day events have taken place on all seven continents, including Antarctica
– 700 venues (museums, galleries, artist studios, sculpture parks, public art sites, etc.) have hosted Slow Art Day events
Learn more about how Slow Art Day’s history and how we got started here.
Participants love Slow Art Day
Feedback on this simple event has been overwhelmingly positive. Here’s a sample:
“I loved taking the time to just “be” with the work, particularly pieces I might otherwise walk by.”
“It was a new and valuable way to SEE the art.”
“It was nice that all we had to do was to take our time looking at art. What a great way to spend a few hours. Then, to make it even better, we had the opportunity to discuss what we saw and think about it together with some thoughtful people over a meal. What is there not to like about that?”
“A much better way of doing the art museum than the usual idle ramble. Discussion afterwards was fun, interesting, informative, eye-opening. Look forward to doing it again soon.”
“The experience exceeded every expectation.”
“It gave me a new framework for looking at art on my own. But then it also provided the opportunity to discuss my perceptions with others who had done the same thing. Brilliant!”
Slow Art Day 2023 is Saturday, April 15th, in museums and galleries on every continent. Join us and experience art differently.
We extend a special thank you to our hosts on every continent. Without them, Slow Art Day would not be possible.
We’d also like to thank our global team for volunteering their time and their talents and our sponsors for their support.