I do not find myself going to museums frequently and since moving to Chicago, I think I have stepped foot in only a handful of them, if the number is even that high. Museums are not usually at the top of my list, when it comes to exploring a new city. Now why is that?
I get easily exhausted by the sheer load of information and the amount of text one is offered to read or listen to when wanting to learn more about an exhibit. Even though I am conscious that I by no means have to digest it all, it does create a sense of overwhelm at times. Does that sound familiar to you? Some museums, however, are just too good to be bypassed, and The Art Institute Chicago is clearly one of them.
I know that many people feel intimidated by visiting art museums, because they believe that they must ‘get’ a certain piece of art and if they do not, they have not paid enough attention in school or simply lack the intelligence to appreciate it. Well, I used to feel that way when I was younger and the idea of passing through a museum quickly was much more appealing than spending time with whatever it was that I was walking by.
Over the years and with experience and certainly after having been to quite a few places that exhibit art, I have come to realize that you can enjoy a painting, a photograph or a sculpture for what it is and what YOU want to see in it.
There are great pieces of art which do not mean anything to me and simply do not speak to me. And there are other less famous or more controversial pieces that I have a vibrant experience with. Being okay with that is the first step to enjoying art, no matter what the art expert might say.
Art is very subjective and if I am not mistaken, one of the reasons Mona Lisa is so famous is because she was once stolen. Before that, hardly anyone took notice of her. So, I no longer beat myself up if a Picasso or Monet or Van Gogh do not catch my interest. I define my own masterpieces and enjoy making up stories in my mind about what the artists might have meant when they created them.
I have also accepted that it is okay not to walk into every room a museum has to offer. I pick a period or a genre that I like, and I start there. If I get tired halfway through, I skip the rest, grateful for the experience and ready to call it quits. There is always the option to return.
I also pay attention to the buildings, which in some cases are more appealing than the exhibitions themselves. Marble halls, majestic stairways, vaulted ceilings, peaceful silence, unobtrusive lighting and single spotlights that glow on a canvas are sometimes all it takes to feel in awe.
Art can be fun, if we take the external pressure away of having to feel what the artist might have wanted us to feel. The Art Institute Chicago or any other art museum really is a great place to bring a bit of art into our everyday life. It is magnetic to locals and tourists alike and the perfect location to unwind from our daily routine. Pick a day when it is not so crowded and simply enjoy the atmosphere. You may stumble across a few great pieces of art which speak to you and leave you thinking.