For their 8th Slow Art Day, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), one of the largest art museums in North America, invited participants to join one of two slow looking offerings with the AGO collection: either by designing their own slow looking tour, or by joining a guided tour.
For the guided tour, one of the AGO’s art educators asked participants to look at three artworks:
- Christ Washing His Disciples’ Feet by Tintoretto
- Paysage du Midi et deux enfants by Pierre Bonard
- Unearthed – Midnight by Otobong Nkang
AGO curator Mellisa Smith reported that the post-looking conversation gained momentum through the tour as people became more comfortable sharing. This was a function of the trust participants built with each other as they experienced the act of looking at the art through each other’s eyes.
For the final session of the guided tour, the AGO hosts asked participants to wander slowly across the entire length of Tintoretto’s painting, “Christ Washing His Disciples’ Feet.” Specifically, they asked observers to pay attention to a trick with perspective that occurs with this painting. When viewed from the side as one slowly walks its length, Tintoretto’s painting seems to emphasize the gaze of the disciples towards Jesus, thus focusing the viewer on his status as the main subject. This is truly a painting which needs to be seen slowly.
When asked if they would do anything differently next year, the AGO told us two things:
- In the future, they hope to try a more densely curated space, and investigate how participants are able to center themselves in a more chaotic space.
- They would like to also avoid choosing artwork with in-depth wall texts, as visitors couldn’t help but
to read the labels (understandable!)
We encourage art educators and curators to listen to an episode of the CBC Commotion podcast series hosted by Elamin Abdelmahmoud and featuring AGO curator Melissa Smith – Slow Art Day and the value of lingering. Smith mentions a point that we always like to reinforce about slow looking: it is about building your own meaning with a piece, and you don’t have to have any prior knowledge of art or the piece to do that. Yes! That indeed is the power of slow looking.
We really appreciate the Art Gallery of Ontario’s long-term commitment to Slow Art Day, and can’t wait to see what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2024.
– Jessica Jane, Johanna, Ashley, and Phyl