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

What’s your Baggage?

For their second Slow Art Day, Railway Street Studios in Auckland, New Zealand, hosted a virtual event focused on Toni Mosley’s ‘CASE: Allegory’ series of art, which was inspired by the simple question: ‘what’s your baggage?’

As a result of thinking about that question, Mosley decided to explore suitcases as metaphorical symbols for emotional baggage, notions of mobility and journeys, and as containers of secrets, knowledge and memories. Not surprisingly, this theme ended up having significant resonance for home-bound viewers during the pandemic.

On April 4th, 2020, participants were invited to look slowly for 5-10 minutes at a selection of Mosley’s art:

Toni Mosley, ‘The Letters,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screenprint, paint on found image, 170mm x 200mm.
Toni Mosley, ‘Find Patience,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screenprint, paint on found image, 188mm x 262mm.
Toni Mosley, ‘My Heart, My Family,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screen Monoprint, hand painted on paper, 206mm x 286mm.
Toni Mosley, ‘My Immigration,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screen Monoprint, hand painted on paper, 272mm x 210mm.

Participants were given four prompts to guide their slow looking:

  • What do you notice? The obvious and the subtle.
  • Does this remind you of anything? A story — personal, historical.  A single meaning or multiple?
  • Color and mood? Do you have an initial emotional response?
  • Does this piece bring up any questions? This could be metaphorical or technical.

The challenge that Railway Street Studios had to confront in the design of its virtual event was how to encourage attendees to really slow down and look. They came up with a simple, but effective, strategy: ask people to write down and send in their answers to the four prompts above for the chance to win an original artwork by Toni Mosley.

Fiona Cable, founder of Railway Street Studios, said it worked. Participants enjoyed the process and took time to think carefully about answers to the prompts, which they then submitted via a link on the Railway Street Studios’ website.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we thoroughly enjoyed the depth of symbolism in Toni Mosley’s artworks — especially given the shut-down of travel during the pandemic — and were also impressed by Railway Street Studios’ initiative to host a prize competition as a way to incentivize virtual slow looking.

We hope to see another creative event from Railway Street Studios for Slow Art Day on April 10th in 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

MOMus Thessaloniki Museum of Photography: At Home with Slow Art

For their second Slow Art Day the MOMus Thessaloniki Museum of Photography hosted two Zoom discussions on the themes of personal and public space and notions of “home”.

The virtual sessions took place on April 4th and 8th, 2020, and focused on slow looking at a selection of photographs from the Museum’s collection, including:

  • Panos Kokkinias’ ‘Smoke’ from the “Home” Series, 1994-1995.
  • Yiannis Stylianou, ‘Parade’, 1967.
Panos Kokkinias, ‘Smoke’ from the “Home” Series, 1994-1995.
Yiannis Stylianou, ‘Parade’, 1967.

Images of the photos were shared with participants the day before the event. On the day, after observing the photographs, participants shared opinions and ideas which quickly evolved into a discussion about home and life during the then-current Covid19 lockdown in Greece.

The eagerness of participants to continue the discussion meant that the first Zoom session lasted longer than the planned two hours. Since the event was so popular, a second session was organized for April 8th.

The events generated significant positive feedback with attendees describing it as a great opportunity to keep in touch with the outside world during lockdown. Maria Kokorotskou, MOMus Acting Director, also said that all participants asked the Museum to host in-person slow looking events after the pandemic.

At Slow Art Day HQ we love this event and choice of theme and photographs. We also are very happy to hear that attendees wanted the Museum to host more slow looking events after the lockdown.

In fact, we hope to see MOMus Thessaloniki Museum of Photography host events throughout the year, including Slow Art Day 2021!

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Art Day Sets Sail with the Hong Kong Maritime Museum

For their fourth Slow Art Day, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (HKMM), collaborated with 21 Masters of Art students in Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong to design three guidebooks and activity kits for children, linked to current exhibits on migrant workers, seafarers, and container terminals.

The guidebooks and activity kits they created can be found online here:

  • Sailing in the Sea (migrant workers)
  • Between Clouds and Sea (container terminals)
  • Homeland on the Sea (seafarers)

The project is the third collaboration between the HKMM and the City University students for Slow Art Day, and aims to spread awareness of Hong Kong’s identity as a seaport city, past and present, and its future in sustainable development. Originally designed as a one-day event specifically for Slow Art Day, it was changed into a set of activity kits in response to the Covid19 lockdown.

HKMM project guidebook cover, 2020

HKMM project guidebook cover, 2020

HKMM project guidebook cover, 2020

The project is available to view on the museum’s website. The guidebooks are well designed with beautiful illustrations and, today, can be used while visiting the museum, which is now open for groups of up to 4 only due to the pandemic.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited to see collaborations between museums and universities as well as events aimed at families and children. We look forward to another HKMM and City University Slow Art Day project in 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

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.

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