Most lovers of art have encountered this situation at one point in their lives: there’s a new collection up in a gallery or a special exhibition for an art show at a museum nearby, and they can’t find anyone to come with them to see it. Have no fear! Experiencing a gallery or museum by yourself can be a richly rewarding experience, and here are a few tips to make it even more exciting and fun:
Plan to see things you know you’ll enjoy but your companions might not love. We all have favorite artists that our friends and family just don’t resonate with, so making a trip alone is the perfect time to see all of those artworks without feeling like you’re dragging someone along unwillingly.
Take note of your reaction, it is the correct one. If the artwork makes you feel anxious or annoyed, pay attention to that. The artist does not always want you to react positively to an artwork. It is okay to make assumptions about the artwork without any historical background. Although knowledge of art history can make your experience more impactful and informed, the gallery space is meant for the general public to learn, not just those who know everything about the artwork.
Create a playlist to listen to that enhances your viewing experience. Personally, I recommend music without words so that your experience isn’t affected by lyrical influence. It might also be fun to find music common at the time of the creation of the pieces in the exhibition you expect to view.
Take a sketchbook and pencils, or whatever art materials the facility allows, so you can sketch the pieces you really respond to. Students of art often do this in a process called a “master study” where your goal is to learn more about the technique by recreating a masterwork. (Most museums will have benches or seating nearby that you can utilize to make this process easier.) When you are at a museum or gallery alone, you can choose the amount of time you spend with each piece without feeling like you have to manage the expectations of someone else, so you might find one piece you love and do a very detailed study without slowing anyone else down.
Make note of the places you may want to return with a friend or loved one later. Maybe the museum or gallery has a calendar of upcoming special exhibitions that looks interesting, or there are other places to see nearby that your loved ones would enjoy.
Finally, don’t be scared to try something new, even when you are doing it alone. New things can be fun and exciting, and you may discover things that you never would have if you were with other people.
With these suggestions, we encourage you to get out and explore your local art community. Perhaps you’ll find some hidden gems you can bring your friends and loved ones back to see.
One more thing:
If you're an absolute beginner to visiting a gallery, please remember to keep a safe distance from the artwork to avoid making gallery attendants nervous. This might seem silly, but many people have accidentally damaged artwork while doing seemingly safe activities. Think pointing at an artwork and someone accidentally bumps your shoulder.. oops! Just to be safe, you and your whole body should be about a foot away from any artwork at all times. There are some exceptions to this, but the museum or gallery will let you know if it's okay to touch.