You might think there’s only one right way to walk around an art gallery. Hell, no. There are as many ways to walk around an art gallery as there are artists and people going to see those artists’ works in art galleries. Well, nearly.
If you were going to take a turn around the Tate with my best friend, for instance, first stop would be the gift shop. Typically, art-lovers end up in this last-chance consumerist corner. But she likes to begin the experience with a quick peek at the lemonade-coloured glasses, the art calendars (so you’ll appear sophisticated in your suburban neighbourhood), the prettily boxed-up Espresso pods (why do we think coffee will taste better in arty packaging?), the monochrome David Shrigley mugs (we both like David Shrigley), and the way too expensive silk scarves.
It’s like she feels we’re getting this over with before we traipse round the exhibition. A bit like kissing someone at the start of a first date, instead of anxiously wondering if you should kiss them or not at the end of the evening.
Another way to walk around an art gallery is to take a creative path. If you accompany my artist neighbour, you’ll wend your way along the left side of all of the rooms and then come back round on the right side of all of the rooms. You’ll also note anything of interest, so you can revisit the pieces you like.
And then you hit the gift shop where you won’t be alarmed by the pricey, heavy catalogues and other larger pieces. You scoop them all up and simply hail a black cab to get everything home. That is after you stroke all the textures and recall seeing an artist making them in a workshop when you were in India, and admire all the shades of the rainbow, and be in awe of the detailed linear layouts of installations.
Or how about taking a more pedestrian route, where you do what you’re meant to do. Read the panel in each room and then methodically look at all the pictures in wall order. This is what I mainly do, as I’m not brave enough to break with convention. That is unless it is blockbuster crowded and in exasperation you stutter ahead, because the person in front of you is taking way too long to examine the tiny brushstrokes on each and every painting. There are unwritten rules about this sort of behaviour. They should know better than to hold everybody up.
You can also opt for the monk method, suggested by one of my art history tutors. You go to a gallery and scrutinise just one painting. You stand or sit, looking at it for a very, very long time. Your feet don’t get sore. You avoid the café. And then you get the Tube home.
The monk method way means you get to know one work extremely well. Plus, you save money from not starting or finishing in the gift shop.
Try recommending this way to my best friend, however, who has already sprinted to the gift shop to examine the Yayoi Kusama loose leaf tea and the red and gold drop Joan Miro earrings. And what about a Hilma af Klint silk scarf for only 125 quid? Surely, this is the right way to walk around an art gallery.