Afraid of art? Here’s how to enjoy an exhibition!

If your only comments about art are “I wouldn’t give that house room” or “A child could paint that” then it’s not likely you’ve stepped into an art gallery lately – or ever! That’s a pity because not only can viewing art give us enormous pleasure, it’s also an enjoyable way to spend time with others. If you’re currently afraid to step into a gallery, here are 10 tips that will help you overcome your FOA (fear of art).

  1. Warm up to it. Art is everywhere so start by paying attention to it in your daily life before challenging yourself to enter a gallery stuffed with it. As you go down the street, notice graphittee, and wall murals. Ask yourself which examples are your favourites – and don’t feel you need come up with reasons for your choices. After a few days, you’ll almost certainly have decided why you like some more than others. If you have, welcome to the world of art appreciation!
  2. Walk in the park. City parks are crammed with sculptures. Some are for looking at, some are for sitting on or playing in. Some are lit up at night. Check out your local parks and see if any sculptures appeal more than others. Are you drawn to those made from metal or wood; life-like ones, or those that appear to be just random shapes? Can you recognise more than one sculpture by the same artist?
  3. Braving it alone. The last thing you want, when attending an exhibition for the first time, is to have to discuss the pieces with anyone, so go alone. If you enjoyed it, take a friend next time you visit.
  4. Take the tour. If the gallery you’re in offers a guided tour or an audio tour which you can download onto your phone, take it. However, if it all seems too heavy, don’t be afraid to ditch it and see the exhibition on your own.
  5. Read the fine print. As part of an exhibition, there will usually be some information displayed about the artist, and also beside each art work. Take the time to read this it as it can help you understand more about what you’re viewing.
  6. Don’t feel there are any rules to abide by when viewing art. You don’t have to give equal time to looking at each piece – you can move from one to the other as fast or as slow as you like. But notice the pieces you’re drawn to first or want to linger over, as well as those you have no time for.
  7. It’s OK to go up close. Looking at art from a distance is just one way to view it, but allow yourself to go up close to pieces, too. Look at the surface texture of art works. Notice how the artist has created, for example, a dog. Have they used detail or just a couple of brush strokes?
  8. Enjoy the stories. Art works tell stories so ask yourself what’s going on in them. Are the painted people relaxing or bickering, resting or partying? Take a look at what’s going on in the background, too.
  9. Ring a bell? Ask yourself if what you are viewing reminds you of anything in your own life – a time, place or event?
  10. Forming opinions. Finally, ask yourself what it is that attracts you to a piece of art. Is it the colour, texture, shape, the way it moves, or more generally, the way it makes you feel? If you can answer this, you’re ready to view art with a friend because you’ll certainly have something to discuss.