Taking the Time to Appreciate Art

 In Articles

Park West Gallery′s mission has always been to bring the joy of art collecting to everyone. In other words, it is our belief that you don’t have to be an art expert or a scholar to appreciate a work of art. What makes the experience so incredible is that it is, in fact, subjective — everyone brings their own points of view to the table (or to the wall, as the case may be), and everyone has their own ideas about which artwork deserves their time and appreciation.

Marcus Glenn, Park West Gallery

“Gossipin’ in the Gallery about Marcel Mouly” by Marcus Glenn

Does an abstract painting deserve more or less of your time and appreciation than a realistic landscape? What about an old masterwork, like a Durer or a Goya, vs. a more contemporary artist, like a Picasso or a Miro? 

James Elkins, an art critic and historian at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, recently asked the thought-provoking question: How Long Does it Take To Look at a Painting? He wrote, in part:

Either way, hate or love, to spend that much time in front of an artwork, you have to be in dialogue with it. You have to listen to it, and think something in response, and look again, and see how the work has changed. You have to believe that you can have an ongoing, evolving relationship with something that is unchanging. Many people might say that is impossible.

Looking for a long time is not the usual way people see artworks. The usual interaction with an artwork is a glance or a glimpse or a cursory look. What I have in mind is a different kind of experience: not just glancing, but looking, staring, gazing, sitting or standing transfixed: forgetting, temporarily, the errands you have to run, or the meeting you’re late for, and thinking, living, only inside the work. Falling in love with an artwork, finding that you somehow need it, wanting to return to it, wanting to keep it in your life.

Elkins goes on to provide some interesting statistics:

There have been a number of surveys of how visitors interact with paintings in museums. One found that an average viewer goes up to a painting, looks at it for less than two seconds, reads the wall text for another 10 seconds, glances at the painting to verify something in the text, and moves on.

Another survey concluded people looked for a median time of 17 seconds.

The Louvre found that people looked at the Mona Lisa an average of 15 seconds, which makes you wonder how long they spend on the other 35,000 works in the collection.

A survey at the Metropolitan Museum of Art supposedly found that people look at artworks for an average of 32.5 seconds each, but they must not have counted the ones people glance at.

Is there a specific work of art that you could spend hours, days or even a lifetime staring at? Does a particular work of art speak to you? What does it say? We look forward to reading your thoughts in the comment section below.

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