According to the visitor experience team at Tate Modern, Slow Art Day 2019 was “fantastic.”
They organized two one-hour slow looking sessions split between two artworks and, then, after the sessions, the team invited the visitors to come together for tea, coffee, biscuits, and a discussion about the whole experience.
Here’s what some of the participants said:
“A really interesting session. I’m more mindful of how to observe art in the future.”
“What a wonderful idea!
“I understand now how you can spend so much time in a gallery looking at art!”
“The combination of looking at art slowly and with other people is a real eye opener.”
“Really like the concept. As someone who can feel a bit intimidated by the art world this felt like a really nice way in and gives me more confidence to engage with art in the future.”
“A brilliant concept, lovely to think that this is going on all around the world.”
“I will definitely bring friends next time. Do it again!”
“I felt like a part of a group/community and was an hour well spent.”
“We can’t wait for next year to do it again,” said Adriana Oliveira, Visitor Experience Manager there at Tate Modern.
As I reflect on the last year in art, I must first acknowledge that we at Slow Art Day operate in a different world than our peers at auction houses, art festivals, magazines, and large “money center” museums.
In that world, Christie’s just reported that it sold $8.4 billion in art in 2022 up 17% from 2021. Sotheby’s sold $7.7 billion, while Phillips sold $1.3 billion up from $1.2 billion the year before.
So the big three auction houses together moved $17.4 billion in art.
This is not the world of Slow Art Day.
It’s not that we oppose the money-driven art market.
We simply don’t interact with it much.
From time to time they have showed a distant curiosity in us – typically a side glance. And that’s understandable. We don’t create more art buyers.
Instead, we work to create more art lovers (and sure that might create more art buyers, but that would be at most a side effect).
We want to change the reality where, as surveys show, the majority of people do *not* visit an art museum in a given calendar year (with young people being the *least* likely to attend).
So here’s a thought experiment.
What if we took the $17.4 billion spent in the art market this year and applied it instead to buying art museum tickets for first-time visitors. If you assume the average price, when there is a fee, is around $15, then our network of educators and curators at museums all over the world could give those 1.1 billion new visitors a slow looking experience that could help them learn how to look at and love art.
How about that?
As the Washington Post so accurately wrote about us, our movement is radically inclusive. We don’t tell participating museums what to do (except to suggest broad guidelines) and they don’t tell visitors how to interpret what they are looking at (except to suggest guidelines about how to slow down).
We aim to get out of the way and allow the beautiful, emotional, visual, cognitive experience to occur directly between visitor and art.
One of my favorite examples of this comes from the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Watch this short video to see young people slow down and look – and discover the joy of seeing art.
At Slow Art Day, our strength comes from our independence.
We do not rely on funding or support from the established art world.
In fact, because we are volunteer-driven and open source, we have almost no budget and thus no need for dollars from anyone.
Instead, we rely on the hard work of our long-term volunteer team *and* thousands of educators and curators around the world.
And, as you can see in the video above, we, and the many millions of people who look at art, are not passive consumers of art, but active co-creator‘s of the art experience.
In other words, we believe in the radical notion first expressed by Duchamp — that the spectator completes what the artist began.
And we believe the art hanging in museum walls around the world is collectively owned by humanity and humanity can come claim that ownership through the simple act of looking.
More than 1500 museums have participated in our annual Slow Art Day and hundreds of thousands have learned to look at and love art.
Maybe we can make our goal for the 2020s to reach 1 billion new visitors with this radically inclusive program.
Just a thought.
Hope you have a wonderful, slow, and happy holiday season filled with art, the love of art, and the love of the best of who we all are as humans.
– Phyl, Ashley, Jessica Jane, Johanna, Maggie, and Robin
Inspired by the Downtown’s First Friday theme, visitors were invited to engage in an evening of egg hunting and art viewing at the Museum. Two posters were created for the event, including prompts for the attendees to consider, and small cards for each image were handed out. Literal and figurative Easter eggs were hidden in reproduction art works from the Museum’s collection for a Slow Art and egg hunt inspired seek-and-find.
We love the playful nature of their event design.
Below you can find examples of the various poster formats they used. Educators and curators around the world should feel free to copy elements of what they have done with their event (and posters).
Original works from the Museum’s collection complete with Slow Art appropriate prompts were on display the entire weekend, along with an annual installation of the Clothesline Project in partnership with YWCA McLean County Stepping Stones.
T-shirts decorated by local sexual assault survivors were also displayed as testimony to their survival and the chronic problem of violence against women in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The McLean County Museum of History traces its roots back to 1892, and is a nationally-accredited award-winning museum with five permanent exhibit galleries and two rotating galleries.
We look forward to what innovative approach McLean County Museum of History comes up with for next year’s Slow Art Day.
Ur Mara Museoa, located in Gipuzkoa, Spain, held its seventh Slow Art Day this year.
This Basque museum has been a real leader in the slow looking movement showing all of us how to celebrate via daylong events that combine art, food, music, and dance (below is a video from 2019 showing one of their events).
The Gregory Allicar Museum of Art (GAMA), located at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, held their first Slow Art Day this year, which was hosted by GAMA Administrative Staff Members Madeleine Boyson, Theresa McLaren, and Lynn Boland. They chose seven works by five artists exemplifying a range of styles and media.
Museum staff approached visitors with a short handout (see below) detailing instructions on how to find the works, prompts for slow looking, and an invitation to discuss amongst themselves, with a staff member, or in larger, more “formal” discussions at 11:30am & 3pm.
Note: Educators or curators might want to copy this simple flyer for their own slow looking events.
After participants finished their slow looking sessions, the museum provided bottled water and light refreshments in the lobby (nice touch!).
We look forward to seeing what they come up with for next year.
The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California ran their second Slow Art Day, where they invited museum visitors to join them in the galleries of California Bounty.
Opened in 2016, this permanent exhibit takes visitors through a “rambling journey” of California’s visual history – a “history shaped by a unique mixture of Mexican and Anglo traditions as well as the state’s position on the Pacific Rim.”
For Slow Art Day, The Bowers Museum replaced their normal public tours with two special Slow Art tours and advertised them as being held in conjunction with Slow Art Day; including links and an explanation about the day. Docents guided visitors in closer looking at select paintings from the historic California collection.
VP of External Affairs Kelly Bishop hosted Slow Art Day. We’ll note that Bishop previously worked at SF MoMA, which has been a longtime participant in Slow Art Day.
We can’t wait to see what Bishop and this important California museum come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.
Led by Director of Education, Philipp Malzl along with student educators Joseph Rowley, Susannah Kearon, Sophie Houghton, Kate Daily, and Alexa Ginn, the social media-based event encouraged viewers to slow down the fast pace of internet/social meldia viewing and contemplate a work of art for 60 seconds or more.
Some of the comments received include: “I definitely am the type to often rush through art museums and only stop to look at paintings that I have seen before. Once I stopped to look at this for longer I realized just how liminal the composition is, and how much darker it felt when I just spent time with it for a moment. Super cool!”
“I love this series of 60-second videos! It is meditative to watch. My daughters are watching them with me now. One daughter noticed the vertical lines of the figure and the basketball hoop, and how if you turned the painting upside down, those lines would still be in similar places. The other daughter noticed that the basketball hoop was a tin can with the bottom cut out.”
The Brigham Young University Museum of Art hosts slow looking tours on a quarterly basis, in addition to having a printed slow looking guide available year-round at the information desk.
We look forward to seeing what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.
For their third Slow Art Day, the TarraWarra Museum of Art in Melbourne, Australia, invited the public to a mindful slow looking session and group reflection featuring work by David Noonan from the exhibition David Noonan: Only when it’s cloudless . The event was led by Sarah Metzner, museum educator at TarraWarra and a visual, collaborative, and public artist who has been working with different community groups for 30 years.
On Slow Art Day, participants followed a 20-20-20 ratio of time during the hour. They were first welcomed and then invited to look at David Noonan’s artwork “Only when it’s cloudless” for 20 minutes.
The group then spent 20 minutes slowly watching David Noonan’s 20 minute film: Mnemosyne, which has a focus on evoking memories (a link to the trailer is included in the picture below) before the session was rounded up with shared reflections for the final 20 minutes.
Note: We recommend you watch the trailer. We found it beautiful, eerie, and a little ominous.
The event was well received, with one participant saying that the experience “enhanced my love of art and mindfulness and reminded me to slow down and be present with myself and my practice.”
We look forward to what the TarraWarra Museum of Art comes up with for Slow Art Day 2023.
Exploring the theme of “Slow Down, Live Long, and Live Well,” the gallery allowed for four visitors at a time and each visitor chose which works of art they wanted to appreciate slowly (note: the gallery asked that visitors RSVP ahead of their visit to secure a time to attend).
Henrique Vieira Filho wrote, as part of the day, “Living at a fast pace certainly has a certain charm (“live fast, die young”), however, I think the alternative is much more interesting: slow down, live a lot, and live well! The Slow Art Movement advocates the experience of time with greater QUALITY for everything and everyone.”
We couldn’t agree more.
The event was advertised online (see above) and there was also an article written in the local press (also see above).
Visit Google Drive or Facebook to view a video that was created to allow people to explore the exhibit virtually.
We love their focus for 2022 and look forward to seeing what they come up with for next year.
For their third Slow Art Day, Europos Parkas, or the “Open-air Museum of the Center of Europe”, held an in-person event hosted by Lina Karosienė of the European Park, and Karen Vanhercke and Justina Kaminskaite of Easel World, an agency focused on connecting people through art.
Located in the geographical center of Europe, near Vilnius, Lithuania, the European Park is an outdoor museum of modern and contemporary art that has been operating since 1991.
Their Slow Art Day featured sculptural works by Marius Zavadskis and Adomas Jacovskis, seen below.
We love sculpture parks and would have enjoyed slowly walking around and inside some of these sculptures.
Participants of the Slow Art Day seemed to love it too – and reported that slowing down changed their relationship to the park and to the art. “Earlier I just saw this park as the place full of objects, and now I see the artworks in a whole new light,” said one. Yes!
The team at European Park also produces year-round Slow Art programming and has created a special route through the park that encourages participants to look at art (and nature) slowly.
This beautiful video in Lithuanian (below) on their YouTube channel gives an idea of how they have done this.
It’s great to have this central European art park participating, especially during this difficult time for the region. We look forward to seeing what they come up with for their fourth Slow Art Day.
For the event, visitors were encouraged to slow down and look closely at each piece for 5-10 minutes so that they could ponder how architecture has inspired and shaped stories of Gloucester’s people, culture and industry.
At Slow Art Day HQ we look forward to their next year’s event!