The practice of “slow looking” is a major theme in the Denver Art Museum’s exhibition Matisse and Friends: Selected Masterworks from the National Gallery of Art. Slow looking refers, quite literally, to slowing down the art-viewing process. This often requires the viewer to spend larger amounts of time, perhaps 10-20 minutes, with each work of art, focusing less on art historical detail and more on a personal experience with the object.
Matisse and Friends encourages this with its comfortable environment and guided-looking tools. Warm, rich wall colors, coffee tables, and plush sofas adorn the space, making the exhibition seem almost as much about visitor comfort as it is about the masterpieces on the walls. This environment, along with open-ended listening and writing activities, inspires creative, in-depth, and personal thinking.
The three journals placed around the exhibit continue to gather heartfelt, contemplative responses from visitors of all ages. They encourage visitors to spend just a few more minutes reflecting on their experience by inviting them to compare and contrast, connect with personal experience, and compose reflective poems.
Julia Brown (age 10) describes Georges Braque’s The Port of La Ciotat as “a village on a rainbow.” Others used the journal as a tool for emotional response: “When I experience this, I not just see, but also feel the vibration of energy. It makes me want to throw away my computer and just live in this world of light, color and energy.” Henri Matisse’s Open Window, Colllioure left one viewer yearning for “a crusty baguette, red wine, and to go through the windows onto a boat.” Various comments were also left regarding the audio activity accompanying this piece: “The audio changed my perspective in relating not only to this painting, but other artwork as well.” Guests also explored artwork by creating poems with vibrant adjectives and imagery: “Quiet explosion / Brilliant and evocative / Silky as soulful essence / Amorphous precision / Compelling.”
By entering these paintings and activating their senses, guests learn that slow looking is not about reaching the correct conclusion, but more so a place of satisfaction with the artwork. Matisse and Friends allows viewers to learn about themselves through the work of great masters and sculpt their own museum-going experience. See examples of some of the journal entries in the slide show below.