How to look at art in galleries and enjoy it

In New York City, where I am at, museums are everywhere. MOMA, Whitney, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim, street art, public art installation, and Chelsea galleries… It’s the mecca for art.

And I always wondered, how do people actually look at art in museums and galleries?

You see people who zoom past paintings while others stay in front of one for several minutes.

I usually invest my time looking at a piece that really resonates with me and others I sometimes pass.

Or are you the type to not go see any art at all?

Yeah, I’m also that type (perhaps more often than I want to be). Sometimes it’s time, sometimes it’s money, and whatnot.

I do hear a lot though, that some art are “terrible” and just “not understandable,” so people don’t take much interest in museum-going.

Some artworks are stupid and too far “out there.”

The thing is, we’re missing out. There’s a different way to see artworks.

There is another way

There is a way to look at art and be inspired, feel connected, have insights into who you are and who others are.

When we see artworks that are just totally “not understandable” it means that we are trying to understand the art. We’re trying to see the logic behind it.

We’re really logical beings. At work we need to be logical, at home we’re supposed to have logic. (cue “logical song”)

The mind might go: because this is A, it must mean B. And if this is B then it should be C. Or something like that.

But trying to understand the work logically won’t give you anything in return. You probably would just be very frustrated at how the artwork doesn’t follow the logic you want to believe in.

The other part of the brain

The thing is, when you’re looking at art, you don’t have to use your logical mind that much.

Instead, use your right brain. The part of you that is all about the nonverbal, the emotions, the energies, the sensations.

When you look at an artwork, get in touch with what you are feeling in your heart, not in your mind.

Don’t think too much about the content of the painting or the techniques. Just get in touch with the feeling you have from this art piece in general.

Really feel it. Is it a heaviness in your stomach? A lightness in your shoulders? An urge to hug or an urge to throw something? (Don’t act on it though).

And stay with that gut feeling. That’s probably what the artist wanted you to feel. It’s probably what the artist him/herself felt like and wanted to express through art.

You’re most likely not the only audience who’s feeling this either. So you’re connecting with the artist and other audiences over this feeling.


The reason why we go see art

Then you might think, why do we feel this way? What does it say about you and about others?

Good questions.

It’s the question of the human race. It is something to have a rich conversation over coffee, maybe after going through the gallery.

You might be thinking, yeah, but some art are depressing or confusing or frustrating. And you’re telling me to feel depressed, confused, and frustrated? That’s not a way to enjoy art!

Yes, what you feel might be very unpleasant.

But what is life without the unpleasant parts? How do we even know if we’re happy if we didn’t have those lows?

Welcome the unpleasantness. Don’t run away. They have something to say too.

The truth is that the human condition involve both pain and pleasure. However much we want to deny pain and seek only pleasure, it is not something we can do.

We have to feel them both anyways. The beautiful thing is, when we do fully express, connect with, and feel the pain or the unpleasant parts, the more we can appreciate life and enjoy it.

So when an art piece is making you feel depressed and frustrated, good! Please feel that fully and know that you are not alone.

Isn’t is so good when you connect to a friend because you both went through a similar experience and feel less alone because can share the difficulties of being human?

However, it can be hard to throw away the logic, intellectual concepts, and rational thinking.

It is easy to shut off our feelings and intuition. These things can  be messy, confusing, and overwhelming at first. So why bother?

But the thing is, when you do connect with your feelings and intuition, you feel more whole, and you can truly enjoy what’s in front of you. You can really value all this artworks that artists have created for you to experience.


How to look at art in galleries and museums and enjoy it
How to look at art in galleries and museums and enjoy it

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