Traveling over the holidays? Want to visit a museum or two? Big cities with large museums can be daunting and large crowds add to the frustration. Here are some tips on how to get your arms around it. I call it the “restaurant approach.”
Why? If you want to enjoy a fine restaurant in an unfamiliar city, certain steps are necessary. Seeking out the best in art requires planning. It beats buying a ticket to a mamouth fortress of art, wandering for hours room to room, and leaving with glazed eyes heading for the nearest bar.
THE RESTAURANT APPROACH TO VISITING ART MUSEUMS:
Step 1: Plan. Decide if you want to see masterpieces or cutting-edge new works. For masterpieces, books like EyeWitness Travel Guides or the Knoft Guides are great. Love the images and the floor plans of the museums showing you where to find the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The Louvre has 35,000 works in 60,000 square feet. Mon DIEU! Can’t see it all! To see the new, ask in an art gallery showing living artists’ work or look for museums emphasizing contemporary art. Their temporary exhibits will have wonderful pieces.
Step 2: Check out the website. Most museum have amazing websites with special exhibits, highlights of their collections and sometimes videos. Also all the information you need to organize your visit is there too.
Step 3: Make a Reservation. Some museums, the Uffizi in Florence, for example, and some special exhibits require reservations with separate tickets to control the flow of the crowd. Be sure to make one. If it’s not required, go early, go at lunch or go late. Big tours tend to be gone and you may actually have enough visual space to see the art. What a concept!
Step 4: Look at the Menu. All museums have their superstar works. If you haven’t been before, or failed to do Step 2, go to the gift shop. Superstars are on the covers of catalogues, made into postcards, coffee mugs,t-shirts,coasters, etc etc.
Step 5: Ask the waiter. Museum staff know which works are extra special in their collection and they are happy to help you. Ask for a Museum Guide, usually free with entrance at the ticket counter.
Step 6: Appetizers. Go to the superstars first. Don’t start at the first room and walk past every piece of art…not unless you want to hit visual overload and not even notice the Venus di Milo. If you took 30 seconds to see each work in the Louvre it would take you 12.5 days to see it all.
Step 7: Main Course. Read or ask what is the strength of this museum and go there. If illuminated manuscripts are a focus, go there. Just like a restuarant, you want to order the specialty of the house!Step 8: Take your time. You don’t eat in fine restaurants every day. Linger, enjoy, take a break! Go have lunch, coffee, afternoon tea in the museum cafe. Museum cafes often have terrific food. The views from the Pompidou and the Uffizi are stunning or look at this view of the opera house from the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. No need to pay 5 star hotel prices for a quality meal with a view.
Step 9: Dessert. After recharging your batteries in the cafe, go visit something you hadn’t planned to see. Discover something you don’t know anything about. Never had calamari and now you love them? You get the idea.
Step 10: Tell your friends. Share your experience. Friends love to hear about a good restaurant. Tell them about your great art experiences. They’ll love you for making their world bigger.