Slow Looking Meditations with the National Gallery

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.

5-minute Meditation: Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’, The National Gallery, YouTube

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:

Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’

Redon’s ‘Ophelia among the Flowers

Rosa Bonheur’s ‘The Horse Fair’

Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’

Zurbarán’s ‘A Cup of Water and a Rose’

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.”

Christina Bradstreet

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.

National Gallery visitors enjoying a slow looking activity (pre-lockdown).
Picture courtesy of the National Gallery.

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.”  

*Delightful*”

“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!” 

Participant Quotes

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!

Christina Bradstreet

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.

– Johanna

Slow looking with the Frye Art Museum

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.

Friedrich August von Kaulbach (German, 1850-1920), Rosario Guerrero, ca. 1908.
Oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 37 3/8 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.082
In the manner of Edouard Manet, ‘Landscape with Figures,’ n.d.
Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.109

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.”

Participant Quote

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Art Gallery of Ontario Hosts 6th Slow Art Day

For their sixth Slow Art Day The Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada, invited the public to look slowly at five artworks, accompanied by prompts, via their Instagram Story:

  • Canaletto, ‘The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta‘, c. 1735.
  • Barbara Hepworth, ‘Two Figures’, 1943.
  • Claude Monet, ‘Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard‘, 1902.
  • Claes Oldenburg, ‘Ice Cream Soda with Cookie‘, 1963.
  • Daphne Odjig, ‘Odjig Family: Father, Grandmother, Stanley, Daphne, Donald, Winnie, Xmas, Dec 25th‘, 1986.

Re-Live the Experience

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?

Canaletto

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….

Canaletto, The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta, c. 1735. Oil on canvas, Unframed: 48.8 × 81.8 cm. Gift of the Ludwig Mond Estate, 1926. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 829.

Hepworth

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?

Barbara Hepworth, Two Figures, 1943. Redwood, strings, 61.2 x 31.4 x 21 cm. Gift of Sam and Ayala Zacks, 1970. © Bowness, 71/88

Monet

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…

Claude Monet. Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard, 1902. Oil on canvas, 73 × 92 cm. Gift of Ethel and Milton Harris, 1990. © Art Gallery of Ontario 90/161

Oldenburg

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?

Claes Oldenburg, Ice Cream Soda with Cookie, 1963. Alkyd paint on plaster and glass, stainless steel, chinaware, paper, painted tray, 29.2 x 34.9 x 26 cm. Gift of the Sydney Lawrence Wax Family Trust, 2011. © Claes Oldenburg 2011/272

Odjig

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?

Daphne Odjig, Odjig Family: Father, Grandmother, Stanley, Daphne, Donald, Winnie, Xmas, Dec 25th, 1986. Acrylic on canvas, 121.9 x 101.6 cm. Purchase with assistance from Greg Latremoille and the Estate of Mary Ash, 2016 © Estate of Daphne Odjig, 2016/39.

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:

  • Get comfortable…
  • 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.

– Johanna

Impressionist Interiors at The Bendigo Art Gallery

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.
Bessie Davidson, Lecture au jardin (reading in the garden), 1930s, oil on plywood 94 x 114 cm. Collection of Max Tegel, New South Wales.
Bessie Davidson, Fillette au perrouquet (Little girl with parrot), 1913, oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm.
Collection of Carmel Dyer and Allen Hunter. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Bessie Davidson, An interior, c. 1920, oil on composition board  73.1 x 59.7 cm.
Gift of Mrs C Glanville, 1968, Art Gallery of South Australia.

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Gardiner Museum Hosts Sense-ational Slow Art Day

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:

View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020, Clay, water, metal, nylon, wood.
Part of the RAW Exhibition at The Gardiner Museum. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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.

– Johanna

Note: The listed prompts were selected from the original, full list of prompts provided by The Gardiner Museum.




Slow-Looking with The ICA, Boston

For their third Slow Art Day, The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, MA, designed a slow-looking event for participants to try at home.

Guidelines for the slow-looking were created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Manager at 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).

Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 63 inches (213.4 x 160 cm). Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté Art Acquisition Fund and Anonymous Art Acquisition Fund. Courtesy the artist and Bortolami, New York. © Caitlin Keogh

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.

Guidelines to the ICA Boston slow-looking event, created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Manager at ICA Boston. Available here.

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Art and Wellness: Zoom Webinar with the Frost Art Museum

For their 8th Slow Art Day, The Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum in Miami, FL, hosted a live webinar conversation focused on art and wellness with artist Carol Brown Goldberg, facilitated by Miriam Machado, Curator of Education at the Frost Art Museum (click on the image below to watch the webinar).

Slow Art Day Webinar: ‘A conversation with artist Carol Brown Goldberg on her series Tangled Nature and her exhibition at the Frost’. Screenshot: Johanna

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).

Carol Brown Goldberg, Extravagant Eden 8 (2015), Pen and Ink on Paper, 11 x 18 inches.
Carol Brown Goldberg, Maggie on My Mind (2015), Acrylic on Canvas, 79 x 58 inches

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.

– Johanna

NMWA Turns Slow Art Day into a Week of Activities

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, ‘It Made Sense…Mostly In Her Mind,’ Oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches, 2011; Promised Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the 25th Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Photo courtesy of the artist.

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.”

Amy Sherald, quote from the NMWA Blog.

“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.”

U.K. Participant

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.

Slow Looking with Bisa Butler’s Stunning Portraits

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.

Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019, Cotton, wool and chiffon, quilted and appliquéd, 50 x 129 in. (127 x 327.6 cm). Private collection, promised gift on long-term loan to Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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.

Detail 1: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.
Detail 2: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.
Detail 3: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.
Detail 4: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.

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 ideasranging from change, power and freedom, to historical symbols of wealth culturethrough 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!!!!

PARTICIPANT QUOTES

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Mindful Slow-Looking with The Fotomuseum

For their 5th Slow Art Day, The Fotomuseum in Antwerp, Belgium, provided a virtual slow-looking mindfulness exercise (in Dutch) for people at home during the Covid19 pandemic.

Title picture of the instructions for the event Slow Art Day at Home organised by the Fotomuseum, Antwerp.

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:

1) Relax

“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.”

3) Breathe

“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?”

5) Reflect

“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.

– Johanna

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.