On April 4, 2020, the artworks were shared to the Museum’s Twitter and Instagram Story alongside this 3-2-1 prompt:
Make three observations
Name two experiences the artwork reminds you of, or two people you want to see this
Pose one question to other viewers.
The 3-2-1 prompt was so intriguing that I decided to try it myself while looking at Africano’s “I get hurt”. I included my reflections below in the hope that it might inspire more museums and participants.
Observations: The color-palette is melancholy and, to me, it invokes a sense of stillness. The spacious background of Africano’s painting reminded me of how the current pandemic has hightened feelings of isolation for many people; it is a powerful visualization of how relationship and communication issues create loneliness.
Experiences: I thought of the times when I confronted friends and family members with grief or anger. The central figure’s hand-over-heart gesture made me remember the last time I cried, when I had gotten overwhelmed by all the minor annoyances of life during the pandemic.
Question: The question I would pose to other viewers is this: When was the last time you were honest about your emotions with someone close to you?
The team and I have been encouraged that so many Slow Art Day events during the pandemic fostered a much-needed sense of community through art. We look forward to seeing another great Slow Art Day event from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 2021.
During the spring 2020 Covid19 lockdown, the National Gallery in London began releasing 5-minute long art meditation videos on YouTube in order to promote mental wellbeing among the public.
Written by Christina Bradstreet, Courses and Events Programmer at the National Gallery, the meditation videos were produced at home by members of the gallery’s digital team and promoted across social media platforms.
So far, the slow looking video-series has included meditations on:
A true slow looking pioneer, Bradstreet is a powerful advocate at the National Gallery for slow programming throughout the year. When we asked her how she first became aware of the power of slow looking, she recalled how she felt as she walked home after attending her first mindfulness class:
“I felt acutely aware of the crunch of my footsteps on the gravel, the air on my skin, the bird song – and I thought, “wow! maybe mindfulness can really help us to savour the sensory details of paintings.”
Her positive experience inspired her to design a range of events at the gallery, such as finding wonder in familiar paintings like Van Gogh’s ‘The Sunflowers’, mindful looking, drawing sessions, and, during the lockdown, the above meditation videos.
The first two slow looking videos have been an enormous success, with an average of 16,000 hits each on Youtube, and a total of 260k hits and counting across the gallery’s social media platforms.
Viewers have also given strongly positive feedback:
“Well done. Please do more.”
“Fabulous meditation! Thank you so much for these slow looks.”
“Soul touching and relaxing with a new breath of freshness.”
“I’ve seen this painting many times but I never saw the hare, or the people at the side of the river [in Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’]. Thank you so much!”
Bradstreet also shared with us some thoughts on the design of these 5-minute videos:
Rather than simply offering a slow looking experience, I’m interested in choosing meditation techniques that connect with the paintings content or how it was painted, so that the art and the meditation enhance one another. For example, in the video on Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair, I explore the theme of the commotion of the busy horse fair as a metaphor for the busy mind, and think about how we might stay mindful when the world is chaotic around us. Clearly, these themes can be taken much further in a longer meditation. However, we have kept these short, partly because many of our audience will be beginners at meditation, and partly because we don’t want to add to online fatigue!
The National Gallery has truly captured the essence of slow looking within these meditation videos, and I have loved incorporating the short art meditations into my own workday as a way to relax. I recommend that you do the same.
I and the whole Slow Art Day HQ team hope that these videos inspire more slow looking around the world. We can’t wait to see what Christina Bradstreet and the National Gallery in the UK design for Slow Art Day 2021.
For their third Slow Art Day the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, shared slow-panning videos of two artworks from the Museum’s Founding Collection:
Friedrich August von Kaulbach (German, 1850-1920), ‘Rosario Guerrero,’ ca. 1908
In the manner of Edouard Manet, ‘Landscape with Figures,’ not dated.
Slow looking prompts were included in the video descriptions and on the Frye Slow Art Day website. After viewing the artworks, participants were encouraged to share their thoughts by commenting on the posts.
The event was promoted via social media posts and stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Compared to other posts by the Museum, the Slow Art Day event had a higher than average reach on Facebook and more engagement across all social media platforms.
Feedback from participants was also positive and showed that the Slow Art Day ethos was passed on. One viewer even wanted to use the exercise in their teaching:
“Thank you! You gave me an assignment for my students to do in our new online art class.”
At Slow Art Day HQ we loved the Frye’s art choices. The panning in ‘Landscape with Figures‘, which integrated movement in different directions, was especially innovative. We also extend special thanks to Caroline Byrd, Education Coordinator, for sharing details about the Frye’s event with us.
We look forward to what the Frye Art Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.
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.
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.
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.
Participants were encouraged to choose an image, drawing or photo to look at for 5-10 minutes and find a comfortable seated position. The Fotomuseum outlined 5 stages for its meditative slow-looking activity:
“Close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath, and put one hand on your stomach to feel it. If your mind wanders, return to your breath. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 6. Repeat this 5 times.”
2) Look at your artwork
“Open your eyes and look at the artwork with the same alertness you had for your breath. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do you notice?
What colors, composition, shapes and materials do you see?
Does the artwork remind you of events from your own life?
Would anyone else notice the same things as you?
If your mind wanders, try to return to the image.”
“Close your eyes a second time, and return focus to your breathing. Take a few deep breaths so you feel the air flow deeply into your lungs, and then breathe as normal again. Pay attention to any thoughts about the artwork, but try to not lose yourself in them. Return to your breathing again.”
4) Look a second time
“Open your eyes and look at the artwork for the second time.
What stands out to you now?
Do you notice anything new?
Does the artwork take on a new meaning for you?”
“Take a moment to reflect on the exercise.
Did you notice yourself thinking or looking in a different way?
Do you have a new or different connection with the artwork?”
The original in-person event planned by the museum attracted interest from over 150 prospective attendees, and the online instructions were shared to Facebook with 50+ interactions.
At Slow Art Day HQ we have loved using these thoughtful instructions for our own slow-looking. Try them out at home for yourself!
We look forward to The Fotomuseum’s 6th Slow Art Day in 2021 ― hopefully in their actual museum.
Note: The above instructions were translated from the original Dutch.
PS – You may want to take a look at the webinar they did for Slow Art Day last year.