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Take Your Time: The Art of Slow Looking


You may have heard of slow living – slowing down and taking a mindful approach to life, enjoying the present moment while focusing on the “now”. Similarly, when it comes to viewing art, practising “slow looking” helps us de-stress and feel more connected to the artwork. It’s easier said than done, though, especially when we’re so used to the frantic pace of modern life. Read on for all you need to know to master the art of slow looking.

What is slow looking?

Put simply, it means taking the time to look at an artwork in detail, instead of trying to see as much as possible within a single gallery visit. This idea is advocated by many reputable institutions: Tate Modern, for instance, introduced slow-looking tours for a painting exhibition and discussed its benefits in a podcast. Meanwhile, the UK National Gallery combines mindfulness with art appreciation through a series of online meditations, which encourage the audience to spend five minutes on each masterpiece introduced. The Denver Art Museum also launched a free virtual Mindful Looking programme, with each monthly session focused on just one work of art. There’s even a global event, the Slow Art Day, that invites people from around the world to visit museums and galleries to view art slowly on 2 April each year.      

What are the benefits?

There’s a reason why slow looking is so highly advocated: it elevates the art viewing experience. Rather than making hasty interpretations, looking at an artwork slowly gives you the time to linger over the details and explore different perspectives, which naturally lead to a more in-depth understanding of the piece. As you immerse and lose yourself in the artwork, you also develop a deeper connection with it and therefore enjoy it even more.


It’s also a meditative process that’s great for mental health. When you turn your attention to the artwork in front of you, you’re essentially tuning out distractions and entering a focused state of mind. It’s a relaxing experience when you’re able to leave your everyday worries behind and simply focus on the art itself. According to Shari Tishman, author of Slow Looking: The Art and Practice of Learning Through Observation, it also helps boost cognitive learning and critical thinking as you give your mind the time to process all the information that you’ve received.

How do we look at art in a mindful way?

Like any forms of meditation, it may seem challenging to stay focused at first, but with practice, you’ll find yourself enjoying the process more and more. Start with these six simple steps:


  1. Turn off distractions (tuck your phone away!) and take a few long, deep breaths to ease into a peaceful state of mind.

  2. Pick an artwork – keep looking at it for at least five minutes.

  3. Start by noticing the environment around the piece. How is it positioned in the room? How does it influence the feeling of the space around it? How does the lighting affect it?

  4. Now, focus on the artwork. There’s no right way to look at it: scan it from left to right, let your eyes wander, or move around a bit to see it from different angles.

  5. Pay attention to the details and ask yourself: what’s the most interesting thing that has caught your eye? How would you create it if you were the artist? Can you visualise how the artist created the piece? Is the artist trying to express a certain emotion or tell a story through it?

  6. Go away and come back to it later. You may notice something new and experience new feelings and perspectives when you’re in a different state of mind.


Are you ready to embrace slow looking? A mindful art experience will soon come to ArtisTree that celebrates the deep connection between art and people – stay tuned!

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