According to research published by Empirical Studies of the Arts, when we visit an art gallery or museum we spend just 17 seconds looking at individual paintings. Often our assessment is based on just one thing: whether we like it or not. Once we have made a judgment, we move on. This pattern is even repeated when we encounter classic pieces of art such as the Mona Lisa, which is rumoured to receive just 15 seconds of our time. If we want to cover as much ground as possible, this approach is ideal, but if we want to appreciate what we see, and recall it days or even months later, we need to slow down.

To assist us in this quest, 8 April has been declared Slow Art Day (, and now is the ideal time to get some practice in.

  1. Various venues are taking part in Slow Art Day, including London’s Photographers’ Gallery. Participants will be asked to spend 10 minutes looking at an art work, before sharing their views with the rest of the group.
  2. It can be easy to decide you like or don’t like an artwork, then allow your mind to wander, but use your 10 minutes wisely. If you don’t like a piece, ask yourself why: is it the subject, the technique, or even the frame?
  3. Look at the artwork up close and from a distance, how does this physical shift change your feelings towards it? Try not to read the caption until the last minute as it can influence your response to an image.
  4. Make a mental note of what you see in the picture, then observe any initial thoughts you have. Next, consider any emotions that arise in response to what you’re seeing. Now, write some notes about your discoveries.