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.
Below are some excerpts from the original prompts from the Instagram Stories. Why not take a moment to look at each painting to learn a little about the artists and re-live the Art Gallery of Ontario slow art experience?
Figurative paintings like Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta are good starting points for close looking. Notice the groups of figures, the gondolas waiting for passengers, the person looking over the balcony down at the square. By looking more slowly, you may get a sense of what a typical day in Venice looked like in the 18th century. They probably didn’t have dolphins around then either….
Hepworth practiced direct carving, which means the artist tried to respect the nature of the material, working to bring out its particular characteristics. What do the vertical forms and the dynamics between them suggest? It’s easy to imagine the forms standing in for humans. What conversation might they be having?
Imagine you could walk into this painting. What would it feel like? What would it smell like? Monet was particularly interested by the effects of fog. He painted over 37 versions of this scene, trying to capture the changes in light and ambience. Have you ever done something over and over again? How does repetition change your experience? Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian author, famously estimates that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. And hey, there is no shortage of time right now…
Claes Oldenburg sketched food and merchandise displayed in shops in the lower east side of New York and created a series of exhibitions related to the theme of a store between 1963-1967. Nothing was irrelevant, everything could be art. There is definitely a focus on foodie culture lately, especially with more time to be in the kitchen. What is your comfort food? If you were an artist, what kind of food would you immortalize in sculpture?
Odjig, Canadian First Nations artist from the Odawa-Potawatomi nation, uses a graphic style to portray her immediate family during her childhood in Wikwemikong. This artwork shares her first artistic influences – her family. In particular, her grandfather taught her to paint and draw. On sketching excursions, he taught her the stories of her ancestors and the use of the curvilinear design. What better way to depict family connections. How would you represent your family?
In addition to the Instagram event, a post of Monet’s ‘Charing Cross Bridge‘ was also shared to the museum’s Facebook account which was liked 400+ times, and shared by 170 viewers. It was accompanied by general guidelines for slow looking, such as:
Take your time. Look at the texture, colour, shape, symbols, story, and perspective.
Pay attention to how your mind and body respond.”
We are delighted to see museums like The Art Gallery of Ontario rise to the challenge of involving people in slow looking in their own homes. When we started Slow Art Day 10 years ago, we primarily wanted museums to use the web in the service of sending more people into real spaces. Due to Covid19 lockdown restrictions this year, however, most museums had no choice but to rely on virtual platforms, and it is wonderful to see events such as this one still producing amazing engagement with art.
We hope to see yet another wonderful event for Slow Art Day at The Art Gallery of Ontario next year.
For their first Slow Art Day The TarraWarra Museum of Art in Melbourne, Australia featured two very different artworks by Australian women artists: ‘Club Colours’ by Rosalie Gascoigne, and ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’ by Jenny Watson.
To promote the event, Elisabeth Alexander, Marketing and Events Coordinator, created a short teaser ‘slow zoom’ video of ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’, and posted image stories on Instagram and Facebook.
On April 4, participants were directed to a dedicated Slow Art Day page on the Museum’s website to look slowly at full-size images of the two paintings. Shannon Lyons, Education Coordinator, then led an online discussion via the Museum’s social media channels, where participants were encouraged to share thoughts about the artworks and their slow looking experience.
Shannon Lyons shared with us her surprise at how well it went:
From an educator’s perspective, it was interesting to see how willing people were to both delve deeper and give voice to their wonderings online. They actively questioned why aspects of the artworks appeared the way that they did, and why particular elements of the artworks seemed to dominate, hold or demand attention far more than others.
Their first Slow Art Day was a success, with over 5000 impressions and 100+ post engagements across Instagram and Facebook. Further, the average time spent on their dedicated webpage was 6 minutes – dramatically higher than the average time of under a minute for other pages on the site.
The TarraWarra Museum of Art had originally planned to host their first Slow Art Day in-person featuring their newly opened exhibition ‘Making Her Mark: Selected Works from the Collection‘, however Lyons and Alexander had to quickly re-imagine it as a virtual experience due to Covid19.
The whole Slow Art Day team has been impressed with what Elisabeth and Shannon were able to produce – given that it was not only their first Slow Art Day but, of course, also since the pandemic forced a last minute change of plans. We look forward to what they create for Slow Art Day 2021.
Art by Australian Impressionist Bessie Davidson was at the heart of the third Slow Art Day hosted this year by The Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria, Australia.
On April 4, slow-panned videos of three paintings from the exhibition ‘Bessie Davidson & Sally Smart – Two artists and the Parisian avant-garde’ were shared on the gallery’s website (still images below):
Lecture au jardin (reading in the garden), 1930s.
Fillette au perrouquet (Little girl with parrot), 1913.
An interior, c. 1920.
Staggered images of the paintings were also shared on the gallery’s Facebook page via three posts before, during and after April 4th. Participants were invited to respond by posting comments, thoughts and images of their own works inspired by the slow-looking.
Each Facebook post got more likes than the previous, with the last post receiving 1.2k likes. Several people also sent in beautiful paintings of their own children and interiors.
Suzie Luke, Public Programs and Learning Officer at the Bendigo Art Gallery, said that many participants had “tremendously positive feedback” about the artist, artworks and the gallery itself:
Love that you’re doing this. This is the sort of thing I need to lift my spirits, just like every visit to your gallery has always done. Thank you!
This idea is so great, please keep doing it even when the emergency is over.
Jan Deane; Papageno Ragdoll
Slow Art Day at Bendigo Art Gallery usually consists of slow-looking guided tours by their wonderful volunteers, followed by discussions of the paintings and afternoon tea. This year, it has been inspiring to see the gallery make such a beautiful transition to virtual platforms.
We hope that The Bendigo Art Gallery will host another innovative Slow Art Day in 2021.
For their first Slow Art Day, The Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Canada, hosted an immersive virtual event with a multi-sensory focus.
On April 4, four photos of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020, were shared to social media in intervals. An event outline was also available as a downloadable PDF, which can be viewed in full here. Because their session was so well designed, we have included more detail in the excerpted prompts below.
Participants were encouraged to spend 5-10 minutes with each photo, and consider the accompanying prompts and questions:
Imagine yourself seated on the bench next to the installation. Take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you absorb what you’re seeing.
Focus on each individual element of the work. What kinds of lines and shapes do you notice?
Consider the areas of light and shadow. How does the lighting influence the mood or feel of the installation?
What do you think you’ll see as you move closer? What textures and patterns might appear?
Once again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you grasp this new perspective and information.
What do you notice now that you may not have perceived in the first image? Does this change your impression or understanding of the work?
Shift your attention to the cables. What kinds of shapes and forms do you notice in the negative space around and between the cables?
Consider the weight of the water contained in each membrane. Close your eyes and imagine that your arms are the cables holding them above the ground. What do you experience?
Again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you register the new details.
How does this perspective add to or change your interpretation of the artwork up to this point?
Close your eyes and picture yourself gently pressing a finger against the nylon membrane. Feel the weight of the water shifting. Does it remind you of a sensation you’ve experienced before?
Narrow in on the water droplets that are gathered on the membrane. Imagine poking them with your finger. How would the water feel running down your hand?
For the last time, let your eyes move slowly around the image as you take it in.
What would it feel like to run your fingers through the clay? To pick up a handful.
Close your eyes and imagine the smell of the clay, both dry and wet. What does it smell like? Is it earthy? Musty? Chalky?
Now consider the work as its own ecosystem or world. How would you describe it to a friend? How would you articulate its look, feel, and smell?
This was such a well-designed slow looking session that we hope more people who are reading this on the Slow Art Day website will take the time to go through this event themselves.
The Gardiner Museum is one of many museums that had to quickly re-think how to keep the public engaged with art during the Covid19 pandemic. By using photos and descriptive prompts of the installation from their special exhibition RAW, they successfully produced an imaginative multi-sensory experience – even with the added element of being virtual.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we absolutely love how immersive this event was. It reminded us how powerfully our minds can conjure up the real-life experiences of textures, shapes, weight, and scents.
We very much hope that The Gardiner Museum will continue hosting Slow Art Day events – and in their actual museum space in 2021.
Note: The listed prompts were selected from the original, full list of prompts provided by The Gardiner Museum.
The virtual session was attended by a select group of MART members who discussed 4 artworks from the museum’s permanent collection, including Osvaldo Licini’s Bilico (1933) and Fortunato Depero’s Chiesa di Lizzana (1923).
Five days before the session, Denise Bernabe, Membership Coordinator at MART, emailed participants images of the artworks along with a brief explanation of slow looking (without disclosing the artists or the titles of the works).
During the hour and a half session, Bernabe facilitated a relaxed discussion in which participants made personal and emotional remarks about the artworks based solely on their immediate slow-looking responses. All participants loved the experience and, as a direct result of this session, the MART is planning to continue integrating slow-looking with future events.
The event was instigated by local art enthusiast Piero Consolati, who has been a MART member for several years and frequently participates in museum events. The session was made possible through his interest in slow looking, which prompted him to approach the staff at MART about hosting an event.
Public engagement with both art and museums is something that Slow Art Day strongly promotes, and the MART event is a beautiful example of the important role art enthusiasts can play in initiating events and furthering the slow art movement throughout the community. At Slow Art Day HQ, we are very excited to hear about the MART’s slow-looking Zoom session, and are thankful to Consolati for reaching out to us with the details.
We look forward to hearing about future slow looking events hosted by MART — hopefully also for Slow Art Day 2021.
Guidelines for the slow-looking were created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Managerat the ICA. On April 4, they were shared to Instagram, Facebook, and the museum website, where they could also be accessed via a PDF.
Participants could choose artwork in their own home for slow-looking, or use one of the suggested artworks from the ICA’s collection such as Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall (2018).
The easy-to-follow instructions involved mindful breathing, slow-looking, and stream-of-consciousness note-taking which were well received across the board – with the Instagram post receiving 530+ likes. For anyone wishing to recreate the experience, the material can still be accessed on Instagram, Facebook, and the museum’s website.
One Instagram user commented:
“Happy Slow Art Day! I like the slow art from (artist) Caitlin Keogh very much! Thank you for sharing her work with us in slow motion during this global event, and it fits well with quarantine schedules as it invites us to slow down and enjoy the discoveries art can offer.”
The whole Slow Art Day HQ team was excited by the clear and compelling design of their slow looking instructions as well as by the decision to encourage participants to slowly look at artworks in their home.
We look forward to whatever the ICA Boston comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.
The conversation between Machado and Brown Goldberg was themed around “the meditative power of creating art through line and color”. Among other things, Brown Goldberg said that entangled lines can be seen as a metaphor for understanding our own lives. She illustrated her comments by using two of her artworks as examples: Extravagant Eden 8 (2015) and Maggie on My Mind (2015).
Viewers shared their own reflections and questions with Machado and posted comments on Florida International University’s (FIU) social media pages. When they were asked if the webinar was helpful in thinking about art and wellness, an impressive 96.15% responded “yes”.
Brown Goldberg said that many might come out of the current Covid19 lockdown with a renewed appreciation of the power of slow looking with art, including how it can impact overall health and wellness.
Though 18% of participants were from the FIU community (including professors, staff, and students), most were from out-of-state and even from a range of countries:
39% from Florida
37% from the Maryland/DC area (where the artist resides)
21% from across the U.S. (CA, NJ, NY, MA, MN, VA)
3% from outside the U.S. (Germany and the United Arab Emirates)
Further, an amazing 60% of the viewers had never visited the Frost Art Museum, which is a testament to how virtual webinars can bring new audiences to museums.
As Slow Art Day Blog Editor, I absolutely loved this webinar and the reflective dialogue between Machado and Brown Goldberg, and recommend it to anyone wishing to engage in a deeper reflection around art, wellness, science, color and lines.
All of us at Slow Art Day look forward to The Frost Art Museum’s 9th Slow Art Day in 2021.
For its 7th Slow Art Day celebration, The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. turned the day into a whole week of events, featuring 10 women, half of whom are artists of color: Andrea Higgins, Graciela Iturbide, Frida Kahlo, Susan Katz, Yayoi Kusama, Amy Lamb, Delita Martin, Alison Saar, Amy Sherald, and Mickalene Thomas.
Participants in their Slow Art “Week” were invited via the museum website and social media platforms to select and spend 10 minutes with five portraits from among the works of the 10 artists. They were then asked to join a Zoom discussion to reflect on their slow looking experience. A detailed image of Frida Kahlo’s ‘Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky’ (1937) was also made accessible on the Google Arts & Culture platform and shared as a Facebook post.
The Slow Art Day events were part of the ongoing initiative NMWA at Home, which features an amazing range of art resources – from online exhibitions to Spotify playlists – which can be accessed here. A PDF with instructions for the Slow Art Day specific events is available here. You can also explore more of the NMWA collection here.
One of the featured artists for their Slow Art Week was Amy Sherald, who works to reclaim portraiture and turn it into a celebration of African American individuality. Strongly inspired by Frida Kahlo’s themes and her use of color, Sherald’s art is a critique of historical black representation in both portraiture and photography and seeks to promote black selfhood.
Amy Sherald has also spoken a lot about her work. We’ve included quotes below and encourage you to watch the short YouTube video ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio.’
“My work is about taking blackness past the stereotypes and opening it up to the imagination.”
“These people have let go of that idea of being watched. They’re there to meet your gaze in a different way. And it’s a critique on historical black representation, whether it be in photography or painting.”
Amy Sherald, quote from Hauser & Wirth’s ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio’ (YouTube).
The whole Slow Art Day HQ team loves Amy Sherald’s work and we are excited to see such focus on the reframing of conventional art history.
Participants also loved the NMWA’s Slow Art Week. One said it was one of the most “well-planned online (or offline) events they had experienced.” And unlike the previous years when the events were in the museum, this year people from all over the world – from California to the United Kingdom – were able to participate in their great program.
“This has been a super experience in so many ways: the quality of the seeing/interpretation; the generosity of listening/talking; and the sheer excitement of talking to a group of women I do not know in another country in another time zone, in this moment.”
We loved participating in the NMWA’s program and learning so much more about the 10 featured women artists. The Slow Art Day team looks forward to seeing more Slow Art Week (or maybe month?) events at the NMWA in 2021.
– Johanna, Phil and Ashley
P.S. We also have watched with admiration as the NMWA has recently started handing out water and snacks from their museum entrance as one way to support the international protests against racism and police violence.
For the second Slow Art Day hosted by the Katonah Museum of Art (KMA), the museum focused on its Bisa Butler: Portraits exhibit. Renowned for her use of fabric and traditional quilting techniques, Butler reimagines historical black figures and culture in her art, often taking classic photos and turning them into vibrant, multi-colored textiles.
On April 4, 2020, detailed images from one of Butler’s amazing quilts titled‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ were shared to Facebook and Instagram.
We show the full image first (above), but the museum did not include it in their initial posts. Instead, they posted four close-up images (below), captioned with short prompts to encourage deep reflection. Participants were then invited to an in-depth Zoom discussion, led by Marijane, a KMA docent, to explore the whole exhibit and slowly look at some of Butler’s amazing work.
Butler’s stunning textiles are often based on important black and white photographs – the one above of four women sitting on the steps of Atlanta College in 1900.
This particular work engages with complex ideas – ranging from change, power and freedom, to historical symbols of wealth culture – through Butler’s carefully curated patterns and colors. Of course, the title of this work borrows from the title of Nobel-Prize winning poet and writer Maya Angelou’s debut memoir in 1969.
The event was very well received across social media and Zoom. Many participants followed up the event with positive feedback such as:
Thanks for the incredible up close views!
Such a wonderful tour. Thanks so much for making my day.
This was AMAZING!! Thank you so much for hosting slow art day and for hosting it virtually!!!!
At Slow Art Day HQ, we also love Butler’s art and her powerful textiles. These are amazing to slowly look at online and we can only imagine what they are like to see hanging on the museum’s walls. The museum is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but when the KMA re-opens, we recommend you go if you are near northern Westchester County, New York.
Finally, we note that over 80% of artists from collections across 18 major U.S. museums are still both male and white according to a 2019 survey by PLoS ONE; we are grateful that the KMA is helping to change that.
For its 1st Slow Art Day, The Eaton Gallery in Bloomington, IL, organized a creative drive-by exhibition of “The Illuminated Pages of Ours.”
Due to Covid19, gallery owner Pamala Eaton moved the scheduled exhibition to the gallery’s window display so that it could be seen by pedestrians, cyclists, and anyone happening to drive by without violating social distancing measures.
Featuring contemporary works by 11 local artists, the exhibition was themed around references to the history of manuscript illumination. Strongly inspired by the illuminations in The Book of Kells (c. 800 C.E.), Eaton invited local artists to creatively use medieval manuscripts as inspiration for their own work in the exhibition.
Featured artists: Mary Jo Adam, Angel Ambrose, Janean Baird, Jeannie Breitweiser, Doug DeLong/Veronica Strotzka, Herb Eaton, Joann Goetzinger, Rick Harney, Jane Osborn, Melanie Shellito, and Brian Simpson/Rachel Cofer.
Although originally planned as an in-gallery event, Eaton was delighted that the exhibition was still able to take place through the window-display; which enabled even more people to see it. The gallery also recently hosted another drive-by exhibition due to continued lockdown measures.
“We have so many talented artists in this community. We need to celebrate what those gifts are and be willing to share them. Even in this time of stress, it’s a good way to take your mind off of something and try to find some hope and faith and move forward.”
The Slow Art Day HQ team has loved reading about the Eaton Gallery event. I especially appreciate the strong emphasis on the local artist community. It reminds us how important art can be in fostering connection, perhaps especially during times such as the present.
We look forward to Slow Art Day 2021, when we hope The Eaton Gallery will participate with another wonderful event.