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How do you get started with modern art?

Art can sometimes seem daunting, it can often feel hard to understand or appreciate.

In our venues, with so many works on display, trying to see everything can also maybe seem overwhelming. Studies have found that visitors to art galleries spend an average of eight seconds looking at each work on display.

But what happens when we spend five minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour or an afternoon really looking in detail at an artwork? This is ‘slow looking’. It is an approach based on the idea that, if we really want to get to know a work of art, we need to spend time with it.

Slow looking is not about curators, historians or even artists telling you how you should look at art. It’s about you and the artwork, allowing yourself time to make your own discoveries and form a more personal connection with it.

To celebrate our first year as part of the National Partners Programme, we brought together a fantastic group of people from Sunderland to introduce them to the vast and extraordinary Arts Council Collection of modern and contemporary art. Our Art Champions have travelled across the country to Yorkshire and London, had exclusive tours around the stores where over 8000 artworks are kept safe, and have been introduced to some of the most exciting modern and contemporary British art in the country. Our Champions found strategies for exploring artworks, for overcoming the pressure to like or understand an artwork, allowing themselves space and time to look and think. Listen below to our Art Champions reflecting on their experience of getting started with Modern Art.

How do you get started with modern art?


Watch Maanashi’s Story – is modern art for all ages?

Maanashi’s is the youngest of Sunderland’s Art Champions who are a diverse group of people from communities across Sunderland with no formal arts training but a passion and interest to discover more about modern and contemporary art.


Slow Looking Resources

Slow looking is not about curators, historians or even artists telling you how you should look at art. It’s about you and the artwork, allowing yourself time to make your own discoveries and form a more personal connection with it.

Some great resources for slow looking include:

BBC Arts & Ideas Episode

Tate – The Art of Slow Looking: a podcast and webpage with discussion about slow looking as well as a wellbeing guide through the Tate’s galleries

The Slowdown – a podcast with daily episodes of 5min poems, read aloud to slow down the mind.

The National Gallery

Slow TV: including everything from 10 hour train rides, to underwater scenes and other great things to help with anxiety by putting on in the background.