Learning to love art galleries

A bit of a confession: during the early stages of my travels around the world, I tended to visit art galleries out of a sense of duty. I liked the idea of going to galleries, but didn’t really get how people could spend a long time in one, and I visited more because I felt like you should see the Louvre in Paris, and one should take the obligatory photo of the Mona Lisa (see my blurred, taken-without-love shot to the right? I took that years ago from within a crowd of Louvre visitors who were just like me – come, see the Mona Lisa, sprint through a few other galleries, move on to the Eiffel Tower).

Some galleries captured my imagination despite my reluctance – I remember being quite enthralled by Picasso’s gallery in Barcelona, and obviously the incredible collection of the Hermitage in St Petersburg, set across several elaborate palace buildings, attractions in their own right, sucked me right in. But enjoying an average city gallery didn’t really happen to me until I met Jan, who’s now my husband.

Hermitage – St Petersburg, Russia

He taught me to slow down and savour a gallery. It helped – a lot – that he had studied art, knew so much about it and could tell me interesting stories behind paintings and their artists – but mostly he made me realise that I needed to give artworks more of a chance. At heart I’m a words person, not an images person, and a story person rather than a vague emotion one, and if a painting didn’t immediately tell me a story that I wanted to know about, I would just move on to the next one.

Me and someone else’s skull – Stuttgart Staatsgallerie


These days I not only have a lot more patience with art galleries, and a deeper appreciation of what’s behind the pictures, but I look forward to a gallery visit as a peaceful, relaxing few hours where I can immerse my brain in creative stuff – just by staring! (And thinking, of course.) If only I’d figured this out fifteen years earlier, I could really have had some amazing experiences – but better late than never, right?
What’s your take on art galleries – love them, loathe them, or does it depend on the exhibition?


  1. Your hubby really made a great point. You have to take your time and absorb the art. I never got why people rushed through art galleries but now I understand. I’m an art lover obviously, and I’m one of those people who spend whole days in galleries. To me, art is like music, it can take you to different places, make you feel different thinks and tell stories.

    • Fly Girl, thanks so much for your comment, and I’m glad to help explain why people rush through galleries! I love your explanation of art being like music – beautiful.

  2. Jenny Woolf says

    I think there is a lot to see in paintings if you have the patience to stand and look, but a good piece of art also ought to affect me directly, without my having to think about it intellectually.

    • Yes Jenny, I agree – the image in itself should stand alone (even though there may be more depths to know about it) – a bit like a book, when you may have a different/deeper understanding by knowing some other background/info but you can appreciate it on face value too.

  3. You’re right…better late than never. I have always enjoyed galleries, but even I get a bit antsy after an hour or two..

  4. I’m a lot like you, Amanda, more in tune with words than images. I find historic galleries more interesting than modern ones, I think because I can more readily appreciate the artistic skill involved and because I love history more than art!

    I’ll think about this post while I’m overseas and see if I can get more from gallery visits on this trip!

    • Glad to hear you’re on my wavelength Ann – I definitely think that most people are either words people or images people (a bit like cat and dog people – because some are both!). Your trip must be coming up very soon?

  5. I’ve always loved art galleries. It probably has something to do with my family and education. I have to admit that I have been to some rather underwhelming galleries–poor lighting and layout. I’ve probably been spoiled by the galleries of NYC.

    • Ah yes Matt … spending time in NYC definitely spoils you in terms of galleries – I need to get back there and do some more of it!!

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