Summer can be a great time to tap into your cultural side and with the British weather as erratic as it is, sheltering from the rain in an art gallery can be the best way to spend a day out. To some people galleries are difficult places to enjoy, and I agree that there can be a certain amount of snobbery surrounding them that can be off-putting for many. But art doesn't need to be inaccessible.
Here are my top tips to start your journey to becoming an art gallery enthusiast.
Broaden your definition of 'art' | When you think of art you normally associate it with things like the classical painters or even post-modern pieces, but what the world now considers art is actually pretty broad. If you're finding yourself bored looking at more traditional pieces, switch it up! There's a whole wealth of artwork that includes and isn't limited to sculpture, interactive pieces, photography, moving image, installations and more. Don't limit yourself to the bigger galleries either, the smaller ones will usually feature more unusual pieces or lesser known artists too.
Focus on art that you're drawn to | First of all excuse the pun! A big piece of advice if you're planning on going around a gallery unguided is to let your mind and eyes wander to pieces that intrigue you. There's not much point dwelling on a piece of art you don't get excited by - even if it is Starry Night by Van Gogh - when you could be looking at pieces that hold your attention better. When you see something that catches your eye, ask yourself, why? Who painted it? What style or era does this belong to? Take a quick photo - if you're allowed! - and then Google the artist or ask a guide what the piece is about.
Pick up a guide | I can't stress how good museum and gallery audio guides can be. Though the initial price may seem steep on top of your admission, if you really have no clue on what to expect from an art gallery it's a staple to pick up. Not only will you get a full run down on art that interests you, but they can also be useful to block out the sounds of babbling tourists too ;)
Wander into the travelling exhibition area | Usually in addition to the permanently housed pieces, larger galleries will play host to a touring exhibitions. These artworks may only be on display for a limited time, but as they usually just focus on one artist, theme or era, they tend to go into a bit more depth. Look at the art gallery's website to see which ones will be set to arrive and when. They'll also usually list a bit of background information on the artists and which pieces you'll expect to see.
Take it slow | In my opinion, art is not meant to be enjoyed at high speed. A lot of people tend to try and hit art galleries quickly but I'd advise giving yourself at least a full morning or afternoon for smaller galleries, and a whole day if it's something like the The Met or the Tate Modern. Rushing through rooms and barely looking at pieces is pointless, unless you're going for a specific piece or artist. And even then you could be missing out on some great artwork. Walk slowly, listen to music as you wander, take your time, take a seat, and bring a notepad or sketchbook to scribble in if you're feeling inspired.
Get home and Google | Your first port of call after you get home after a day at an art gallery is Google. Search the pieces you found interesting and see if there's any information on Wikipedia or the gallery website on them. You may even want to pick up a print online - usually as cheaper option than buying the museum shop! Getting on those search engines straight away is a great way of remembering the pieces you've seen and will help you reflect on why you enjoy them!
These tips may seem obvious, but they're baby steps to really getting into any kind of art form. The one thing to remember is to not feel pressured to like something. Art is totally subjective, so concentrate on finding art that you really love.