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The Benefits of Visiting a Museum

François Biard, Four Hours At The Salon, 1847, oil on canvas, 57.5 x 67.5 cm, The Louvre, Paris. Photograph: ArtStor digital library.

Art State of Mind

The Benefits of Visiting a Museum

During the current coronavirus lockdown, when all the art we see is digital, we can reflect on that which we took for granted before. There are so many benefits to visiting a museum. But what is it that makes us visit museums over and over again?

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and people visiting the museum. Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
Photograph: Getty Images.

It is hard to imagine the corridors of some of the most popular museums around the world as completely empty. Free of the crowds that would normally surround The Mona Lisa, it becomes eerie to picture the Louvre Museum with nobody in sight. The world’s most famous portrait with no one looking back at her. The time of visiting museums seems so long ago. Yet back then, we probably took for granted just how easy it was to go and see artworks. Since digital access is the only way to access them currently, we can reflect on the benefits of visiting a museum and seeing artworks in person. Whilst we wait until we are able to visit museums again, you can access a list of the best museums to visit virtually.

1. Getting up close and personal with the artworks

Image of girl visiting a museum
Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. Author’s photograph.

In this time of self-isolation, it is easy to feel distanced from all things art-related. We begin to miss the brightness of colors and seeing the painted brushstrokes in front of our eyes. You get a special feeling inside when you see the real artwork for the first time. The anticipation of what it will look like in real life is met with sheer excitement. In the case of some installation works, we are even allowed to touch and interact with the artworks. In the recent exhibition Anthony Gormley at the Royal Academy in London, the visitors were allowed to step over, under and through huge circles of metal wire.

As a whole experience, it feels exclusive and new. The opportunity to see the real thing often defies all our expectations from the static, two-dimensional images that we have seen online. But now, these online images are all we have.

2. Mindfulness from visiting a museum

Image of the museum of Villa Farnesina in Rome
Villa Farnesina, Rome. Author’s photograph.

If you have ever experienced being alone in a gallery room with a work of art, you will know that it is a feeling that is hard to replicate. You feel like you have been taken to a different world, that you have travelled back in time. You are standing before the artist’s masterpiece as if it has just been created. When you start looking at every tiny detail, there is so much to see, almost too much. You could spend hours in front of just a single artwork.

3. Visiting a museum for that perfect Instagram shot

visiting museum benefits
Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. Author’s photograph.

We have all been guilty of this at least once. We live in an era where it has become the norm to constantly post images of where we are and what we are doing. If you did not put that picture of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers on Instagram, did you even go the National Gallery?

Of course, this has a huge benefit. The ability to scroll through Instagram and see artworks from all over the world, in high definition and all in one place, is incredible. It is a huge advantage to all of us who love art, who are currently unable to visit museums. It is difficult to imagine a time when this was not available. Social media allows us to access so much art at just the touch of our fingertips. But all of our Instagram feeds are missing those aesthetically pleasing gallery shots at the moment. Maybe the time has come to scroll back to a few months ago on our camera roll. Dig out an old photo and do a throwback post to something that we never uploaded before. We have got to perfect our Instagram profiles and update our followers, after all!

To view some perfect shots of artworks from museums across the world, you can access a list of the best museum accounts to follow on Pinterest.

4. A once-in-a-lifetime exhibition is worth visiting a museum for

Anthony Gormley exhibition at The Royal Academy photo; visiting museum benefits
Anthony Gormley, The Royal Academy, London. Author’s photograph.

Exhibitions are what draw a huge number of people to galleries every year. Unfortunately, some incredible exhibitions have been disrupted by the closure of museums due to the coronavirus outbreak. Titian: Love, Art and Desire at the National Gallery in London opened for just three days before it had to be closed due to the lockdown. For the first time in four centuries, the six paintings created as a series for Prince Phillip of Spain had been displayed together from galleries across the world.

Also at The National Gallery, Artemisia was planned to open this month – an exhibition dedicated to the female artist Artemisia Gentileschi. The exhibition was postponed because a lot of the artworks had to be sent from Italy and America to England, something that became impossible in light of the global situation. The chance to see an exhibition that is normally only open for a short period of time is what inspires so many people to visit museums. It is something that you would not want to miss, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

5. Visiting the gift shop of dreams

visiting museum benefits
Tate Modern, London. Author’s photograph.

Art history books galore, postcards, magnets, prints, posters, even Picasso earrings: they have it all. It becomes part of the experience, the opportunity to take a tiny bit of the gallery home with you. A chance to recreate the gallery in your own home, in the form of a poster or a small postcard for your pin-board. Perhaps one of the best gift shops is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is filled with the most beautiful textile patterns, scarves, tote bags, notebooks, and more. Another amazing example is the huge gift shop under the pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Many museums have their own online shops which you can still visit if you do not want to miss out on this shopping experience whilst in lockdown.

These are just some of the benefits of visiting a museum. Whether you want to explore a new city or see a particular artwork that never gets boring regardless of how many times you have seen it, museums have so much to offer. The chance to be in the presence of some of the most renowned artworks is something we take for granted. The lockdown has made us miss this physical contact with works of art and the contemplative experience that comes with it. But perhaps, when museums do reopen, we will enjoy the experience even more than we did before. The next time we are at a museum, maybe we will just stop for a moment and appreciate how much our minds can be transformed by looking at art.

Always remember about the benefits of visiting a museum and by now, for more ways to access art during the lockdown, check out these other articles:

I am 22 years old, living near London and an aspiring Curator. I have just graduated from The Courtauld Institute of Art with a Masters degree in the History of Art, and I am a lover of painting, feminist art criticism and reading!




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