Rubens for Lent at Sint-Pauluskerk

For their third Slow Art Day, the Sint-Pauluskerk in Antwerp, Belgium, produced a slow-panning video of Peter Paul Rubens’ painting ‘The Flagellation of Christ’.

Narrated by Wilfried Van den Brande, with text by Rudi Mannaerts, the video features the stunning inside of the church and a commentary on Rubens’ artwork (click on the photo below to watch).

The nave, or central part, of Sint-Pauluskerk

Previously on loan to the Doge’s palace in Venice, the painting returned to Antwerp in time for the Slow Art Day event. Since Easter fell on the week following Slow Art Day this year, the painting’s theme of Christ’s suffering fit in well with the pre-Easter church calendar.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Flagellation of Christ, 17th century. Sint-Pauluskerk, Antwerp.

Many thanked the church for sharing the video, and several explicitly talked about how much they missed visiting the actual church. The Facebook video was viewed 2,535 times.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are delighted that the thoughtful connection between the event hosted by Sint-Pauluskerk and the Easter holiday was so well received.

We hope that Sint-Pauluskerk will be able to open its doors for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Van Gogh in Mississippi for Slow Art Day 2020

For their second Slow Art Day, the Mississippi Museum of Art shared a slow-panning video of Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles” (1888).

The video featured close-ups of the painting alongside commentary by Victoria Meek, Associate Curator for Family and Studio Programs. The painting is her favorite artwork from the Mississippi Museum of Art exhibition “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Their Times,” which was postponed due to the pandemic.

Title: Art Moment | Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles,” 1888.
Artwork: Oil on canvas, 13 x 16 1/2 in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 2014.207. Copyright Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement, said that the video was well-received across social media, with 830+ views and likes on Instagram and Facebook.

One person posted a picture of roses as a thematic connection, and others praised our education staff for providing insightful interpretation of the work. We were pleased to have produced something that could allow our audience to take a closer look at one of the iconic works on view.

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement

Following the positive feedback on the video, the Museum created a new “Mindful Art Moment” video series on their Facebook page, encouraging viewers to think differently about what they see in works of art.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited to see the Museum build new programs based on the success of its Slow Art Day initiative. This is core to our mission: use the annual event to encourage museums to adopt year-round programming.

We look forward to seeing what the Mississippi Museum of Art has in store for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

‘The Approaching Storm’ with The Norton Simon

For their fifth Slow Art Day, The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, invited the public via Instagram to look slowly at Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña’s ‘The Approaching Storm.’

The event was inspired by the Norton Simon’s regular Mindful Looking sessions, where visitors focus on looking at one artwork for one hour.

Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807-1876), The Approaching Storm, 1870, oil on canvas, The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon.

Viewers were guided by two prompts:

  • Step inside this scene and sit under the light.
  • How does it feel? In times of uneasiness, where do you find light⁣⁣?

We’d also like to note that the museum provided an unusually good description of the artwork – not filled with jargon but instead with accessible, compelling, and even poetic words.

⁣”In the midst of an approaching storm, a beacon of light shines down through a gunmetal sky onto a rocky landscape. A lone woman by the rocks nestled in the middle of the scene reminds us that we are part of this earth. At right, a tree is bent and blasted but does not break.”⁣⁣

Description of ‘The Approaching Storm’, The Norton Simon Museum, Slow Art Day 2020.

Mariko Tu, Manager of Youth and Family Programs at the Norton Simon Museum, said that slow-looking visitors loved the experience and the post was liked 600+ times.

The Slow Art Day HQ team also participated. We imagined ourselves in this scene; felt the soft warmth of the light, and really immersed ourselves in the calm before the storm. Although the lone woman in the painting seemed small, we came to believe that she is filled with strength and courage from the light despite the dark skies.

We look forward to whatever The Norton Simon Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Female Photographers at the IAACC Pablo Serrano

For their first Slow Art Day the IAACC Pablo Serrano in Zaragoza, Spain, highlighted four works by female photographers from the Museum’s archive:

  • Grete Stern, Sueño 39, 1949.
  • Cristina Martín Lara, “Si yo supiera a qué se debe…/ Wenn ich nur wüsste woran das liegt…(1) II”, 2004.
  • Mapi Rivera, “Estelación crepuscular”, 2004.
  • Liang Yuanwei, “S/T, Series: ‘Don’t forget to say you love me’, 2005.
Grete Stern (Wuppertal, Germany, 1904 – Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1999), Sueño 39, 1949. Photomontage.
Cristina Martín Lara (Málaga, 1972), “Si yo supiera a qué se debe…/ Wenn ich nur wüsste woran das liegt…(1) II”, 2004. Polyptych, photography on aluminum.
Mapi Rivera (Huesca, 1976), “Estelación crepuscular”, 2004. Analog Photography and Chemical Printing.
Liang Yuanwei (Xi’an, China, 1977), “S/T, Series: Don’t forget to say you love me”, 2005. Photograph on paper.

The photos were part of the virtual project “Visiones transversales en torno a Circa XX. A través de mi cuerpo / A través de tu cuerpo” (“Transversal visions circa XX. Through my body / Through your body”) which explores women, their physical bodies, as well as their social and artistic agency.

For example, Stern’s “Sueño 39” denounces obstacles women faced in 1940s Argentina. Yuanwei’s self-portrait series “Don’t forget to say you love me” is a parody of erotic photographs of women which comments on the male gaze and the objectification of women.

On April 4th, 2020, the photos were shared on social media, accompanied by prompts and brief descriptions. Viewers were encouraged to look slowly at each photograph and then to share their reflections online. The Museum also produced a short video of the four works, which can be viewed below.

The photos were liked many times on social media and some participants, and even some artists, posted inspiring reflections. One of the photographers, Cristina Martín Lara, commented on Facebook:

What a joy to be part of this Slow Art Day initiative to show everyone the Cirka XX Collection in our confinement. Thank you for making it possible! (Translated from Spanish)

Cristina Martín Lara

Several participants also posted reflections in connection with individual photographs. For example:

Even in the most idyllic context we can find something that makes us stop suddenly, causing us pain that only time, and not the context, can mitigate. (Translated from Spanish)

Participant response to Grete Stern’s “Sueño 39”, Instagram.

At Slow Art Day HQ we are inspired by the depth of symbolism in these photographs. The works in the Cirka XX project are exciting to consider one-by-one and even more powerful when viewed in relation to each other. We recommend that all Slow Art Day readers look at the photos posted above as well as the video.

We want to also thank María Luisa Grau Tello, curator at IAACC Pablo Serrano, as well as Julio Ramón Sanz, Eva María Alquézar, Alba Rodrigo Urmente, Gloria Sánchez Martín, Silvia Abad Villarroya and Alfredo Blanco Morte for hosting the Museum’s innagural Slow Art Day event.

We look forward to what the IAACC comes up with for Slow Art Day in 2021!

– Johanna and Ashley



Telescopes and Celestial Maps with Musée Stewart

For their first Slow Art Day, the Musée Stewart in Montréal, Canada, invited participants to watch slow-motion videos of two pieces in the NIGHTS exhibit (below).

Cassegrain Telescope, France, 1750. 1979.51.14 © Stewart Museum
Celestial map, Andreas Cellarius, Scenographia systematis Copernicani, 1660.  1985.34.2 © Stewart Museum

After watching the videos, viewers were encouraged to close their eyes and describe or draw the artifacts from memory. They were asked, “What do you remember?” and “Why do you remember what you remember?”

At Slow Art Day HQ, we decided to participate ourselves. Watching the videos felt almost like traveling slowly through space. The experience demonstrates something most video artists know: just how powerful slow-motion videos can be.

We also found that the memory drawing exercise was a wonderful way to connect a physical activity to a memory. We recommend that other Slow Art Day hosts consider this simple but powerful memory drawing exercise.

The Slow Art Day team loved Musée Stewart’s first Slow Art Day and we are excited to see what creative initiatives they develop for 2021.

-Johanna and Ashley

Slow Art with LUAG in Bethlehem, PA

For their first Slow Art Day, Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG) in Bethlehem, PA, invited the public to learn more about artworks in the Gallery’s collection, such as Romare Bearden’s Firebirds, 1979.

Romare Bearden, American (1914-1988), ‘Firebirds,’ 1979.
Lithograph on paper, 66/300. Gift of George P. Kramer. LUG 83 1021

On April 4, 2020, the event was promoted across social media, and also shared as an email invitation.

Participants were given access to a wide range of material on the Gallery’s Slow Art Day webpage, including prompts for ‘Firebirds’, short videos created by Lehigh students, and downloadable coloring pages.

The Gallery also hosted a series of “Art in Dialogue” presentations, featuring sessions such as ‘The Stories that Pictures Tell’ and ‘Visual Journaling’.

Slow Art Day “Art in Dialogue” presentations hosted by Lehigh University Art Gallery, 2020.

The event engaged 3,392 people in total through various channels. The email invitation was opened by 1110 people, and the Instagram and Facebook posts together reached 2,200+ people. 

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the range of activities organized for LUAG’s first Slow Art Day. We want to thank Stacie Bennan, Curator of Education, for creating such an innovative and involved set of activities.

We really look forward to what she and her team come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

P.S. You can check out more of the Lehigh digital art collection on their Artstor page.

Fossil Interpretations at the RPM in Hildesheim

For their second Slow Art Day, the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum (RPM) in Hildesheim, Germany, produced short videos about three objects by artist Gerd Hjort Petersen that were part of the exhibit “Begegnung mit Gerd Hiort Petersen und Hans Munck Andersen” [Encounter with Gerd Hiort Petersen and Hans Munck Andersen].

Gerd Hjort Petersen,”Sea Urchin Fossil 1″, 2015. Photo: Sh. Shalchi.
Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, owned by the artist. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)
Gerd Hiort Petersen, “Sea Urchin Fossil 2”, 2011. Photo: Sh. Shalchi.
Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, owned by the artist. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)
Gerd Hiort Petersen, “Rock Shell”, 1993.  Photo: Sh. 
Shalchi. Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, collection Claßen. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)

Short texts promoting the objects and Slow Art Day were shared before the videos went live. Then, on April 4, the three videos were shared to Facebook and the Museum’s website, featuring brief commentary by Dr. Andrea Nicklish, Curator of the Ethnological Collection. They received 350+ views, and are still available to watch on the Museum’s website.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the focus on shapes, materials and textures in this event. The videos recreated the experience of viewing the objects in the actual museum space, and gave a sense of their sizes, intentionally exaggerated by the artist.

We look forward to what the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking Eases Pandemic Stress in Iceland

For their first Slow Art Day, the Hafnarborg Art Museum in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, shared a selection of sketches by artists Eiríkur Smith and Elías B. Halldórsson to Instagram between the 4th and 9th of April, 2020.

Their slow-looking event aimed to help participants ease pandemic stresses. Viewers were invited to look slowly at the monotone artworks, then were encouraged to create their own sketches as a way to ground themselves in the present.

Eiríkur Smith, Untitled Sketch. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.
Elías B. Halldórsson, Pesky Saint. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.
Elías B. Halldórsson, Fragmented Self. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.

The Museum’s thoughtful captions addressed the importance of talking about mental wellbeing:

Art mirrors our experience, helping us cope with our situation through the basic human emotions expressed in the artwork, whether that be happiness, sorrow, anxiety or loneliness.

Some may feel a sense of anxiety during this ban on public gatherings, as stress or pressure to act or do something productive can be felt in the air. Therefore, we urge you to take a moment to sit down and put a pencil to paper without worrying too much about the result, only focusing on the process itself and being in the now.

Captions to the The Hafnarborg Museum’s Slow Art Day Instagram Posts, April 2020.

The posts were liked 55+ times and the theme resonated with the viewers, with one participant commenting “Vel orðað” (“Well Said”).

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are impressed by the Hafnarborg Art Museum’s sensitivity in addressing the mental health issues affecting people during the pandemic. The power of art to both bring people together and help manage stress during uncertain times are themes that we have seen throughout Slow Art Day 2020 events.

We look forward to what the Hafnarborg Art Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking at American Art with the MCA, Chicago

For their second Slow Art Day, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA), Illinois, featured five arworks by American artists from the MCA Collection.

CA Collection Artwork #1 Deana Lawson, American, b. 1979 “Sons of Cush,” 2016 Inkjet print, and mounted on Sintra Framed: 44 × 55 3/16 in. (111.8 × 140.2 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of Emerge, 2018.19
MCA Collection Artwork #2 Nicholas Africano, American, b. 1948 “I Get Hurt,” 1980 Acrylic, magna, oil, and enamel on Masonite Framed, approx.: 36 × 71 1/8 × 4 in. Collection MCA Chicago, 1980.42
MCA Collection Artwork #3 Jack Pierson, American, b. 1960 The Call Back, 1995 Chromogenic development print 30 × 20 in. (76.2 × 50.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of The Dave Hokin Foundation, 1995.119.1
MCA Collection Artwork #4 Joshua Nathanson, American, b. 1973 Is it late yet?, 2015 Acrylic and oil stick on canvas 84 × 61 1/16 in. (213.4 × 155.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2016.9
MCA Collection Artwork #5 Gertrude Abercrombie, American, 1909–1977 The Courtship, 1949 Oil on Masonite Framed: 28 × 31 ¾ in. (71.1 × 80.6 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of the Gertrude Abercrombie Trust, 1978.56

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.

– Johanna

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