The annual global event dedicated to the process of looking at art slowly, Slow Art Day 2014, is back on April 12, 2014. In 2010, I hosted the first Italian location of Slow Art here in Florence, at Santa Croce, and the following year teamed up with Palazzo Strozzi to offer it there. The tradition continues in both locations, although I am no longer organizing it. Find out more about this movement and how to participate this year… in Italy!


What is Slow Art?

Slow Art is opposed to breezing past the visual elements in our life. The oft-cited figure is that people spend an average of 8 seconds looking at a work in a museum. Considering how used we are to the flow of images on Facebook and in our daily lives, my guess is that this figure is an optimistic estimate. Some recent movements try to reverse the trend. Even on Facebook, there have been a few meme’s aimed at “saving” art, asking people to share images of artworks on their walls. Slow Art, which began with a few experiments by New-York based Phil Terry back in 2009, was one of the first of these movements.

The idea is that on a chosen day each year, at the same hour around the world, people look at a few pre-selected works for 10, 15, even 20 minutes at a time. This process is done on an individual basis, rather than led by a tour guide or education expert, because you can interiorize it better. Sometimes participants are given a guide that helps them in the looking process – I did this in the ones I organized.

Events are run by local volunteers, called hosts, and each will be different. The museum or location chosen may not even be aware that it is being used, though lately some museum education departments have been hosts too. Of the events being run in Italy this year, only one is unaware of its slow art invasion, which is a reversal of the trend.

People looking at contemporary art / photo flickr user @mrklein_
People looking at contemporary art / photo flickr user @mrklein_

In fact, anyone can organize a slow art day event. There are tips for organizers on the slow art website, and volunteers are also available to answer questions or give advice. All you need to do is pick a museum or place to look at art, set a time, and go; then, find a place to discuss afterwards, preferably over food. The established time is 11am on Saturday April 12, but if you think that an afternoon date might work better, by all means do it. I led slow art followed by an aperitivo one year, and a high tea another time. Before the date, distribute information to your attendees stating which works they ought to stop by to look at slowly, or hand these out at the welcome desk of your museum if this is an option. Being an art historian, I created elaborate packages of material to help people look, with questions and tasks to keep them busy in front of the works. Many people have a hard time spending even five minutes in front of art, simply because they need guidance on how to look for things, so I try to provide that. The discussion session is also guided, but not a lesson or lecture. This means anyone can lead it, and the leader has the role of helping keep the conversation going and trying to engage the whole group. At Palazzo Strozzi we had enough attendees (85 in 2011!) and staff to divide up into four groups, 2 for English and 2 for Italian. I highly recommend the experience of organizing Slow Art Day.

Slow Art venues in Italy

Italy remains under-represented in this international movement, with only 5 7 locations, three of which are in Florence. If you’re interested in participating, sign up for an event locally or make it a day or weekend trip opportunity! If you’re really inspired, organize an event in your area or just do slow art on your own, or with a few friends. If you feel lonely you can always tweet about it with the hashtag #slowartday and get some feedback from the community.

Florence, Italy – Basilica di Santa Croce – hosted by Paola Vojnovic, a fellow alum of Syracuse University in Florence (we both got our MA’s there), who now works for Opera Santa Croce.

Florence, Italy – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi – The Florentine is, as always, media partner of the Palazzo Strozzi slow art, which is run by their education department.

Florence, Italy -– Galleria degli Uffizi – Authorized tour guide Elena Fulceri, a Florentine local who speaks perfect English, is leading Slow Art at the Uffizi, a big challenge! The Uffizi, of course, has no idea this is happening.

Greve in Chianti, Italy – La Macina di San Cresci – Hosted by Demetria Verduci in the location of an artists’ residence program of which she is co-founder.

Rome, Italy – ARTROM – hosted by Californian art dealer Elizabeth Genovesi at ARTROM, her apartment turned gallery space in Prati.

Rome, Italy – Palazzo Barberini Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica – after reading about slow art on this blog, their social media team has signed up to host!

Maglie (Lecce) – Museo Civico di Paleontologia e Paletnologia – hosted by their internal team, it’s the first venue in Southern Italy, hosting for the first time this year. They’re an archaeology museum which means a new approach to slow art.

If you’re a museum or art lover and you are inspired to organize a Slow Art Day event in Italy after reading this article, please let me know in the comments with a link to the eventbrite so that I can add you to the list.

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