Whether I’m at home or away, I love visiting art galleries. I’m an artist so this may not come as a surprise. But art should be for everyone; after all, “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” (or at least, according to Picasso).
I’m not here to convert anyone away from other hobbies…like the outdoor things, Netflix, or whatever. But if you are fortunate to have some leisure time, and even the ability to travel to new places, you should put ‘art’ back on your list of things to do. Here’s why…
1. Gallery going is a free activity
I visit at least 9 free art exhibitions for every 1 that I pay for. Almost every gallery is free OR includes a free section. How? Because galleries receive a mixture of philanthropic funds, government money (your tax), and income from art sales or other activities. The funding structure depends on the type of gallery and its context. If you must pay it’s because the artists are international, and the show is worth seeing. You can find this out online or by calling in advance. For the most part, you can see art for freeee!
2. Basic amenities are a bonus
Whether you’re in rainy Melbourne during Winter or humid and hot Cambodia, you can find comfort inside an art gallery. To conserve art, galleries should always be kept at a sweet 23 degrees Celsius. That’s because higher or lower temperatures can cause paint and other materials to shrink, expand or break.
Now, not all galleries can afford an AC, but at the least, you will have shelter and shade. If you’re an avid traveller, you know how great it is to find a place with free toilets and maybe even free water. I mean, you don’t even have to appreciate art to enjoy a free seat in a cool, quiet room.
3. You might even enjoy the art
Art can connect us to a shared feeling, a person’s story, or a new message. Art is there to be looked at and considered. You shouldn’t like ALL art (I don’t!)… but the stuff that we are drawn to can change our lives. The ‘good art’ will look different for everyone, and we can only know by exploring. Want to know more about what art does, watch the school of life’s video: What is Art for?
If you’re in a new place, trying to ‘experience the culture’, galleries are a place to start. Unlike the “cultural show” you might find at a tourism centre or museum; Art Galleries are not for tourists. ‘Cultural shows’ can be an interesting, great way to get an introduction to history and traditions. I check these events out, but with an awareness that culture runs much deeper than a 60-minute performance. If you want to see a more ‘authentic’ perspective, then an art gallery is the place to be.
4. And if the art wasn’t worth it… maybe the journey to FIND the place was interesting.
I’ll be honest, finding an art gallery is not always easy. Sometimes galleries are hidden in shopping centres, down laneways, underneath apartments or above train stations. But for those who like the ‘road less travelled’, a gallery creates an excellent mission! Visiting 3 different galleries in 1 day is like those “car rallies” I did as a kid with my dad. We had a list of places to go, with questions like, how many ice-cream flavours does Dairy Bell sell? We wanted to beat the other families and come back first, so the pressure was on.
…Luckily the only pressure you have when looking for a gallery is the closing time. Make sure you check if the place is closed on a random weekday before you go searching. It’s common for galleries to shut on Mondays or Tuesdays. But even if you do find a gallery to be shut, my point is the adventure is fun! (we hope)
If you’re in a foreign place, gallery hunting will immediately take you out of ‘tourist’ areas and into living suburbs. On the way to galleries in Bangkok, I stumbled through the suburb of Embassies, in some fancy (but empty) shopping malls, and past cute boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
5. Galleries are also doorways to more events and opportunities
Most art galleries have a bunch of brochures and flyers at their entrance designed literally for you (people interested in doing cool shit). You may find news about a free concert, an art exhibition opening coming up, dance classes etc. If you’re in a new suburb, town or country, this is a quick way to find local events.
The person who is “sitting the gallery” (a staff member or volunteer) will be someone interested in creative things. So you can also speak to them about the exhibition or ask for suggestions in the local area! One creative opportunity normally opens the door for another!
The next step is engaging with the art and (hopefully) enjoying your time there. I’ll soon be sharing How to visit an art gallery like a Pro, so follow me if that sounds interesting! (it will be part satirical, part helpful)
To finish off, I want to make a note on the ‘accessibility’ of galleries. I said art galleries are comfortable in terms of amenities. But they are not comfortable spaces for everyone. Galleries can be intimidating and exclusive: the language may be fluffy and pretentious, or the staff unwelcoming. Sometimes the buildings do not cater to everyone’s needs, creating immediate barriers at the door.
In Melbourne, Arts Access are pioneering best practice for arts programs and institutions that are inclusive of people with a disability. And many artist-run galleries are creating spaces for communities who are often excluded, such as people with English as a second language or (broadly) people of colour in Australia. More needs to be done, and I’m excited to be a part of that conversation through groups such as Connection Arts Space.
Thanks fam, enjoy gallerying 🙂
PS. I forgot to mention the best part, gallery going can be as much a solo adventure as it can be a group activity!
Having said that, if you’re in Melbourne and want a friend to come along (even if we’re not great friends…yet). Give me a buzz!