How to go to an art museum

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Sometimes it surprises people who know me to hear that I like to do a lot of activities by myself, given that I seem an awful lot like a full-on “extravert with a capital E.” In fact, I actually consider myself one of those people who walks the line between extraversion and introversion. Sure, I can talk to anyone, I adore public speaking, and I’m outgoing and lively in social and business atmospheres. I’m a hardcore networker, and I’m pretty fun and talkative (and have been since birth). From the outside, I am the poster child of extraversion. I mean – I was an opera singer, for crying out loud! How much more extraverted does it get than screaming your guts out onstage in front of hundreds of people for 3 hours straight?

The truth is, while I enjoy my extraverted life, quiet time alone is incredibly important to me. I prefer to work in quiet places, alone (okay, with my dog). Even when I was singing, while I did love rehearsal with my colleagues and of course enjoyed performing, my most beloved time was alone in the practice room. And beyond working time, no matter what season of my life I’ve been in, I’ve needed a lot of time by myself or in small, intimate groups to focus and recharge. Otherwise, my extraverted side turns into my “bitchy with a capital B” side…

I used to travel a fair deal by myself when I was training to be an opera singer. Auditions, gigs, and training are rarely in your own city unless you live in New York, so I was always staying in random Expedia hotels and dealing with people and stress and stimulation overwhelm. I was also always killing time between lessons or concerts or whatever, which meant I was in the perfect position for my favourite solo activity of all time: going to a museum.

It’s the perfect self-date, especially while travelling, but also in your own city. It takes however much time you want it to. You can usually also eat there (since most museums have a café or even a fancy restaurant). You can take really cute Instagram pics. Most of all, you can have a beautiful, calm few hours all to yourself, where you see incredible works of art, pieces that might stretch your thinking, and celebrated creations by your fellow humans. 

So how do you do it?

People are sometimes intimidated to go to an art museum for the first time. Totally get it – any experience you haven’t had before is a little scary the first time. But there is no need for fear because this is so easy:  

You walk up to the desk at the front and pay admission (just like anything else). “One adult, please.”

That’s it. You’ve done literally the only scary part. 

But, to make sure you’re fully, FULLY prepared… if you’re going to a huge, world-famous museum in a big city, you need to know two other things:

  1. You might have to buy a general ticket and a ticket to a specific exhibition or famous work. This will be obvious. There will be giant signs. The nice young person behind the counter will ask you whether you want that, if it applies. Don’t stress.

  2. For uberfamous works like Michelangelo’s statue of David or the crazy popular Yayoi Kusama mirror rooms, you need to buy a special ticket for a specific time that you’re allowed to go in (museums need to regulate the flow of people through the day because it’s so hella busy at these things).

So how do you know if you’re gonna need those two extra things? Ya Google it. Museums’ websites are (generally) very explicit about what you need to buy tickets for and how. Hell, you can buy online most of the time! Thank you, technology, for every time you allow me to avoid having an awkward conversation at a desk and potentially look like an idiot. Seriously, thank you.

But if you’re in your home city (and you don’t live in, like, Paris), you can just go to your local art museum or gallery and buy a ticket at the counter. The nice person there will usually give you a map of what’s where, or tell you which way to go to start. Museums are generally laid out in a floorplan that lets people turn their brains off and walk in one direction only, like IKEA. You just follow along, taking in the awesome art along the way, and stopping or doubling back wherever you like. There are benches in front of major works so you can pause and ponder them. There are usually places to sit and rest a bit if you feel like it. There are washrooms throughout, there’s usually a gift shop at the end, and often a coffee shop or a restaurant. And you can enjoy all of it however. You. Want.

Most importantly, once you’re through the doors, you are free to wander around as long as you damn well please. You can boogie through if you’re feeling like it, or use your time restively, looking mindfully at every work. You can spend more time in the gift shop than inside, if you want. You can spend the whole time in front of one work that you really like. You can do the audiotour with the headphones and get your study on, or speed through then read your book in the cafe. It’s your damn day!

And if you’d rather go with other people, make a day of it! Go with your girlfriends. Take your grandma. Go on a date there. Take your kids. Museums are for everyone – they’re public institutions meant to serve taxpayers like you, so you may as well take advantage of them.