Have you ever been to an art museum and just felt like you didn’t know what you were doing?
Well, I’m here to set you free, my friend. And the instrument of your salvation shall be this tasty little nugget of knowledge: you think you have no idea what you’re doing? Neither does anyone else.
Excluding the docents and perhaps a few very well versed patrons (they'll likely be wearing scarves, no matter the season), everyone is thinking exactly what you are.
I’m in the same category, too. I know as much about art as Michael Bay knows about subtlety. But I also rather enjoy the art museum, and maybe these tips can help you enjoy it too.
10 WAYS TO ENJOY THE ART MUSEUM
- Rejoice, It's Free
True story. Thanks to the munificence of several big donors, general admission will cost you zilch. Zero sunk costs = zero pressure.
- Mind Your Manners
Having read through the museum's rules of etiquette several times, I still can’t tell if they’re serious. But here they are: don’t touch things, don’t write on things, no food in the galleries, and remember to walk with your feet. All of which is to say, if you’re worried there’s some secret code of customs everyone but you is following, there very much isn’t. Just don’t be a goofus.
- Pre-Plan Your Trip
If you don’t know Claude Monet from Jackson Pollock, it might be a good idea to get a feel for what you like before you go. Thankfully, you can peruse much of the museum’s art collection online. Find out what you like and what you don’t like, then grab a museum map and plan the places you want to go.
- Take A Guided Tour
The guided tours are the secret weapon against your art museum anxieties. They’re specifically designed for people like you and me; they don’t assume you know anything about art history. They’re led by well-trained museum educators and they really bring the art to life.
- Gift Like A Boss
Impress someone by getting them a print of a painting by a famous artist from the museum gift shop. But make sure the painting itself isn't well known. That way you say things like, "Well, actually, this painting showcases the artist in his formative period before he became famous." (Best said while pushing your glasses up the bridge of your nose, Chianti in hand.)
- Grab Some Grub
You might think of the museum's Terrace Cafe as an afterthought to the art galleries. Not so. The food is art-inspired, which is to say it’s colorful and tasty, not that it bears any particular resemblance to the pottery of Ancient Egypt. Get soups, salads, and some wonderful sandwiches to tide you over until all that arduous foot-walking is over.
- It's A Great Place For The Holidays
I'm gonna let them handle this one.
- You Don’t Need To Like Everything You See
There’s this idea that if something is called art, it must be worth your time. And you can’t judge it, because it's art. If you don’t like it, you just don’t get it. Hogwash, I say. Use your judgement. Be discerning. And if you happen to dislike something, don’t automatically think you’re the problem. Maybe it’s just not very good, and that’s completely fine. (Bonus points if you can articulate why it's not very good. But... baby steps.)
- Modern Art – Tag, You're It
Ever see something like a folded chair in the middle of a gallery. And it has a title like, "Repression, 1969" ... and you’re just like, “What?” Modern art, folks. It is what it is. But you don't need to be intimidated. Here's my point of entry: the art isn’t the folded chair, the art is you looking at the folded chair. Maybe that helps, maybe it doesn't. In any case, you're always free to move on to something else.
- If All Else Fails, There's Always Bourbon
Art After Dark happens on the last Friday of every month (except this month, when it happens on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving). The Museum opens the galleries after hours to live entertainment, drinks, and docent-led tours. That November 23 evening I just mentioned features bourbon, beer, and photography. Sounds legit.
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