How to View an Art Exhibit

Whether visiting a blockbuster exhibit or a small gallery show, viewing art often means facing inconveniences: crowds, limited time, even your own exhaustion. Here's how to get the most out of the experience, whether at home or abroad, no matter what you may encounter.


  1. Image titled View an Art Exhibit Step 1
    Make a complete walkthrough of the exhibit to get an overview of the show. Take note of works that particularly appeal to you, but keep moving on this initial tour.
  2. Image titled View an Art Exhibit Step 2
    Go back through the show, pausing to investigate those works that struck your fancy. Sometimes shows have an intended viewing sequence, which will help answer questions you might have about the show's meaning. Curators (people who pick the works, and help arrange them in a gallery) are always aware of the sequence with which you will view works, and definitely take in mind how the first works you see entering a space will inform your response to the whole show.
  3. Image titled View an Art Exhibit Step 3
    Read wall labels as much or as little as you like. These notes can help explain things, and often totally transform your response to the piece. Sometimes, just understanding what a work is made of can help form new understandings, for instance: it looks like thread, but it's really made of metal.
  4. Image titled View an Art Exhibit Step 4
    Take advantage of any work of art with few or no viewers in front of it. View the art up close, and also from afar. Note how your distance from the work changes your perception of it.
  5. Image titled View an Art Exhibit Step 5
    Skip those works that are crowded by viewers and return to them later when the crowd has moved on.
  6. Image titled View an Art Exhibit Step 6
    Sit before a work of art that interests you whenever a bench or other seating is available. Take time to savor the work, but never feel like you have to stare at something you don't like.
  7. Image titled View an Art Exhibit Step 7
    Take one last look at your favorite pieces before you leave the show.


  • Never feel like you can't or shouldn't ask questions.
  • Start your visit when you have a good amount of energy, and a relatively full stomach. If you're even slightly hungry, fortify yourself with a snack before you start.
  • Stop in the museum shop to peruse the show?s catalog, or visit the gallery?s front desk to read any reviews or other printed material about the work -? but only after you've viewed the show. Galleries are always happy to show you artist statements, and even biographies in some cases - often these materials help clarify things, and also will help you to remember what you've seen.
  • Arrive at the show at least two hours before closing time because if it's good, you'll want to linger.
  • Choose an exhibit that appeals to you. Read newspaper and magazine art listings or museum brochures, or stop at a museum information desk for an overview of what's on view.
  • Take a guided tour with a docent, or the same tour with a different docent--every tour and every docent is different. Be sure to ask them questions as you will probably be surprised with their answers. Often, the more you learn about a work of art, or about a show, will help you to formulate a more comprehensive response. Often, understanding what is most important to an artist will help you understand your reactions to the work.

Article Info

Categories: Exhibited Arts