Three ways to see art differently this year

  • 11 January 2018

The new year brings new perspectives. If you’re looking to enjoy more art and shift your thinking in 2018, we’ve got a few tips to get you started.

 © Andy Smith. Bloomberg New Contemporaries, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2017

Make it count 

Jan Van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434 The National Gallery, London

Jan Van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434

According to a 2001 study, the average time a visitor spends in front of a work of art is just under 28 seconds. On your next gallery trip, take a moment to consider how you use this short window of time. Perhaps you’ll find inspiration for an imaginative post on social media; or maybe you want to focus in on one particular aspect of the work and afterwards think about what you found most memorable or compelling and why.  

You could also challenge yourself to look for much longer (say five minutes) or use the time to look for symbols, metaphors or hidden meanings. Many Old Masters, including Dutch painter Jan Van Eyck, hid miniscule details in their paintings – for example, in his Arnolfini Portrait [right]. 

Challenge #1: See what details you can spot in the works of Van Eyck at Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites at the National Gallery. 

Step into the artist’s shoes 

We’re often encouraged to view art on its own terms. But understanding the context in which an individual was working – whether on a broad, socio-political level or right down to the specifics of environment – can enrich our appreciation of their creative practice. 

For example, considering an artist’s personal and emotional circumstances can help us find new meanings in the individual works we see when we visit an exhibition.  

Challenge #2: Step into a virtual reality recreation of Amedeo Modigliani’s studio at Tate Modern, and take a look at the 3D-modelled items strewn about his workspace. What do they tell you about 1900s Paris? What do they tell you about him? How does the experience alter your thoughts on his work? 

Quiz a friend 

Going to a gallery with a friend is a great opportunity to discuss the work on show. It’s a chance to really challenge your own opinions and reflections, and those of your companion.

 © Andy Smith. Bloomberg New Contemporaries, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2017

Choose a work of art each; study it closely, then share your thoughts and quiz each other. Play devil’s advocate, or choose a particular line of questioning; whatever your approach, you can turn what can sometimes be quite an internalised experience into a chance to share differing perspectives.  

Challenge #3: In the spirit of an exhibition that’s all about community, take a friend to Impressionists in London at Tate Britain – try finding a work that you both disagree about then get to the bottom of why. Sometimes divisive works can be the most rewarding. 

With a National Art Pass it’s easy to take on our three challenges. See art across the UK with free entry to 240 museums and galleries and 50% off entry to major exhibitions.

Tags: What to see