Moodscope's blog



The Perfectionist's Guide to Visiting an Art Gallery. Friday July 3, 2015

When visiting a museum, art gallery, or indeed, a whole city, do you find you can become a bit like a Sergeant Major embarking on a life-altering mission (hello off-the-scale-unrealistic 'To See' list)?

Even in leisure, The Perfectionist's (and many depressives are perfectionists in my experience) goals are rarely attainable.

So how does a perfectionistic culture vulture explore without becoming a cantankerous, fatigued, hunger stricken "failure", with sore feet?

1) Visit the shop first.

It was my American friend, Michelle, who first got me thinking I need to rethink the way I "attack" an art gallery. Michelle always hits the shop first. If some merchandise of a painting "grabs" her, she'll take note and go see it in the flesh.

This may sound fickle but believe me, if you're as short on energy as I am, this can save you from running out of steam before you've even reached the first gallery.

2) Forgive yourself for not stopping, staring, and reading about, every last exhibit.

The fear of missing something life-altering will not abate by adopting the perfectionistic approach - which can quickly come to feel perfunctory and chore-like. In fact, chances are, you'll only tire out quicker and thus lessen any likelihood of experiencing that inspirational, visceral, mouth agog moment.

3) Don't expect the "must see" or famous paintings to be the ones that will inspire/move you the most.

Professor James O. Pawelski, the director of education for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests planning to spend about half of whatever time you have for your visit by first meandering from room to room. Make a note of what resonates with you (not what you feel should resonate with you). Then go back and spend the rest of your time with just the one or two paintings/sculptures etc you've noted (meet Mr Mindfulness. Again). That means really stopping and staring.

Professor Pawelski is conducting studies to try and uncover why the deliberate contemplating of art can increase our wellbeing.

4) Stop frequently for liquid refreshment.

A stop for a cuppa goes without saying really, doesn't it?

5) Answers on a postcard.

I love Danny Gregory's suggestion to purchase a postcard of the painting that touched/inspired/struck you the most and then post it to yourself with a few lines about why you love it so. Why did it "speak" to you? What did you feel?

We may feel a failure if we've not seen absolutely everything but what's the point of seeing everything but not really seeing anything? Sure, you can say, "Yup, been there, saw that," but did you? Did you really, see it; feel it?

As Professor Pawelski says, sometimes we get more for the price of admission by opting to see less.

What helps you to emerge from an art gallery/museum feeling inspired and sated instead of fagged and depleted?

A Moodscope member.

Permalink  |  Blog Home


crafty wee midden Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 6:46am

Loved this....used to go to galleries often, and always bought a postcard, and write the date on it, rather like a visual diary. Happy memories. Thanks for that.

Anonymous Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 7:49am

I loved this Suzy! Such a happy way to start Friday - and hopes for the weekend, to really 'see' things and take time out properly to appreciate what I really like.
Your 'perfectionist' thoughts remind me of my sister! We went to Paris for a couple of days, a few years ago. First time for both of us and she had planned everything, almost. We seemed to rush from one place to another, and it felt like we missed such a lot! It was really difficult for me to say...'can we just look at the stalls with the second-hand postcards?' Or sit in Notre Dâme, instead of rushing around with all the camera-happy tourists! It felt like a treadmill and I wanted to get off! I had a couple of places I really wanted to visit...Eiffel tower, ND, the Louvre and a fabric shop I knew about...boy did that last one cause her apoplexy! Five floors of fab fabric, but she wanted to do it all in a hurry again! So we weren't there long!

I guess I should stand up for myself more and should've then as it was my trip too!
I like the idea of visiting the shop first, to look at mini versions of what's inside and I am going to try and do just that and find somewhere to visit this weekend! Gauntlet thrown.....
Maybe in the autumn, I'll have persuaded my other half to come to Paris with me and we can visit it slowly!

Anonymous Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 7:50am

I like that idea, is so easy to forget where you've been and what you saw and when you saw it!! Or perhaps that's just me! Karen x

Neil Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 8:08am

This is all so true. An artist friend of mine says 'a piece of art finds you, you do not find a piece of art'. I recently visited the new Pompidou Málaga -- a wonderful experience - a painting by Eduardo Arroyo stopped me in my tracks! They had no postcard although it is the painting they chos for the front cover of the catalogue. I downloaded a photo from the Internet to remind me of the moment.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 8:35am

Ah Suzy, I knew this was you from the first line! And yes - oh yes! I love the National Gallery and, when I go to London, I make a point of just dropping in for half an hour. Usually I go and visit my favourite two paintings - one by Cuyp, and the one of art patrons in a big room hung with pictures But other times I will just wander until something catches my eye - as Neil says above - it reaches out to you, Then I just spend twenty minutes or so enjoying it. Art is there to be enjoyed, not just looked at. Lovely post my dear one. Thank you.

Julia Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 8:50am

I too love this Suzy! If I'm visiting an art gallery with a friend, I usually fit in with her routine as she visits galleries frequently and reads up or watches programmes on the exhibition beforehand. I always enjoy the visit even so and love seeing my friend, an old school friend. However I look longingly at the shop when we enter the gallery and my eyes swivel back towards it was we enter the gallery but the shop is the last port of call for us! I like to wander too and look at a painting which catches my eye, not at every picture in each room together with room and picture info on the walls. Next time, I will go to the shop twice, once at the start and then at the end of the exhibition. I have taken note of your suggestions (which accord withnmy own) and those of Pawelski and will go armed with this next time I visit a gallery with friends. But I do benefit from going with my friend. She is such a good friend and so kind. Perhaps going to a gallery on one's own is the best way. Thank you Suzy, this is great and cheered me up no end. I'm going to read it again now

Anonymous Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 8:59am

ah suzy, thank you so much for this, you read my mind! I am absolutely one of those people who feel the need to look at EVERYTHING, thus turning a potentially pleasant trip into a massive wearing chore. I am always in search of that life altering moment, of course it only comes when I am relaxed and not looking intently for it! so good to find I'm not alone with this, and I love your suggestions :) amy x

Anonymous Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 10:39am

Suzy, your blog really makes me smile. The next time i visit an art gallery, i will not feel as if something is wrong with me, or that i'm missing out on something when i dash through an exhibition quickly, taking it all in, and then returning to those few pieces that 'found' me (Neil). The people with audio tours always make me feel inadequate somehow:) No more! So i've been doing it right (for my pefectionist self) all along. I always say that there is nothing more draining than bad art....and to find those works that GIVE energy is a wonderful experience. Thank you. susan xx

Melanie Lowndes Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 1:17pm

I love this. Thank you Suzy! xxx

Suzy Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 1:50pm

I'm aching to visit that fabric shop! Please give the name and I can add it to my 'places I want to visit in Paris' pinboard.

I fear I may have sometimes been like your sister. A couple of years ago I had a dear friend visit from America. We had 3 precious days in London together and Little Miss Perfectionist here wasn't just going to give her a nice time, I was going to give her an Experience of a Life Time...I knew my health would pay dearly for it, but it didn't pay heed. I desperately wanted her to see EVERYTHING.

I know I upset/vexed/hurt her in some way that weekend and to this day I don't know why. But the more I consider it (and I do. A lot!) the more I think that maybe it was because I was like that Sergeant Major. :o(

Should you ever read this Chels, I'm desperately sorry and wish I'd have constructed your trip less like a perfectionist, obsessive compulsive!

Because, like Neil says, art finds us; not the other way around, and the same goes for a city too, I think.

Suzy Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 1:57pm

Hey everyone,

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts/experiences.

So good to know I'm not alone in my wearisome ways.

Craft Wee Midden: I'm a postcard collector too. :o) My next goal is to have the nerve to do some sketching in an art gallery/museum.
These bits of happy memorabilia mean we get to live the good moments twice eh?

Anonymous Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 4:05pm

Really enjoyed reading this. Some excellent tips. Thanks Suzy.

The Entertrainer Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 8:54pm

Hey Suzywoo... the postcards help my memory too!

Stella Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 @ 8:57pm

I love this blog which is full of great suggestions. In particular the visit to the shop before all else is an excellent idea. We v=can never see all the exhibits and this way we can decide our priorities. Going round museums and galleries can be exhausting. So many thanks to Suzy.

You must login to leave a comment.

What is Moodscope?

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. If you’d like to receive these daily posts by email, just sign up to Moodscope now, completely free of charge.

Moodscope is an innovative way for people to treat their own low mood problems using an engaging online tool. Anyone in the world can accurately assess and track daily mood scores over a period of time. We have proved that the very act of measuring, tracking and sharing mood can actually lift it. Join now.

Blog Archive


Posts and comments on the Moodscope blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Moodscope makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any of the links.

Moodscope will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

We exist to help people to positively manage their moods. You can contribute by taking the test, sharing your experience on the blog or contributing funds so we can keep it free for all who need it.

Moodscope® is © Moodscope Ltd 2018. Developed from scales which are © 1988 American Psychological Association. Cannot be reproduced without express written permission of APA.