“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”
— Henry David Thoreau
There don’t seem to be slow news days anymore. So it might be refreshing to observe Slow Art Day in the way its founder intended.
“People in the art world generally know how powerful it can be to look at a work of art for more than seven seconds,” says Phil Terry. (Eight is the actual number, according to studies, but who’s carrying a stopwatch?) “I started Slow Art Day because everyone else doesn’t know this.”
When the event started in 2010 in the United States and internationally, there was a misconception over what it was about. Just lure people to art museums with free admission? But the point of Slow Art Day is not to rush through an exhibit to glimpse everything you can. It’s to find some image or object that appeals to you and savor it, read about it and, perhaps, ask a docent questions. Or at least research it on your smartphone.
Take your time.
Outright freebies are limited in this year’s Slow Art Day among 150 or so participating American museums — three on Long Island. But if you pay admission to one museum and save your receipt, you can get into one or both of the others free. (If you’re a member of one, you get in free all around.)
Here’s a Slow Art Day preview for Long Islanders.
HECKSCHER MUSEUM OF ART
If you’re not accustomed to examining art for more than a few seconds, here’s a good way to get the hang of it. In the single-gallery exhibit “Synapses: Threads of Thought,” Heckscher curator Lisa Chalif has laid out selections from the museum’s permanent collection in such a way that suggests a visual or metaphorical “thread” from one image to the next. They’re not necessarily related in subject matter or genre: Paintings, prints and photographs are spread throughout, including George Grosz’s “Eclipse of the Sun,” Arthur Dove abstracts, Larry Fink photos and a 16th-century Annunciation. How could they be related? You be the sleuth. Docents will be on hand for guidance.
Meanwhile, Saturday is the next to the last day for “Long Island’s Best,” the annual juried exhibition of works by high school art students from Nassau and Suffolk districts. Maybe your kid’s school is represented.
NASSAU COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART
Weather permitting, Slow Art Day will be an indoor-outdoor experience as, hopefully, winter surrenders its grip. Inside you can pick up a family gallery guide or a sculpture park map and show yourself around. Currently, the display occupying all the museum’s galleries is “Halston Style,” billed as the first major museum exhibition on the career of the late American fashion designer Roy Halston, who famously said, “You’re only as good as the people you dress.” See some of the designs he dressed his clients in, among them buddies Andy Warhol and Liza Minnelli, first ladies Jacqueline Kennedy and Betty Ford, and movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall. If celebrity or high fashion intimidates you, join the 2 p.m. docent-led tour.
Unless weather forbids, don’t miss a chance to stroll the museum’s extensive sculpture garden. There are many delightful sculptures, Fernando Botero’s “Man on Horseback” and Chaim Gross’ “Caring” among them, but linger over Tom Otterness’ “Free Money.” Is the couple dancing over a money bag really happy or are they just celebrating greed?
COLD SPRING HARBOR WHALING MUSEUM
“You might not think of art when you think of a whaling museum,” says assistant director Cindy Grimm, “but this exposure should make you think again.” There will be Slow Art hands-on projects such as pen-and-ink stations where you can draw images in front of you, just as you’ve seen students do in art museums. A painting by Mort Künstler, watercolor by Claus Hoie and scrimshaw by Manual Enos are among the pieces included in the “Work of Art Guide.” Or grab a brochure for a self-guided tour of special and permanent exhibits that include a 19th-century whaleboat and a whaling diorama.
Slow Art Day Long Island
Three Long Island museums are participating in the international event, offering same-day reciprocal admission — show your paid receipt from one, get free admission to the others.
Heckscher Museum of Art
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at 2 Prime Ave., Huntington
INFO 631-351-3250, heckscher.org
Nassau County Museum of Art
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at 1 Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor
INFO 516-484-9337, nassaumuseum.org
Whaling Museum & Education Center
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at 301 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor
INFO 631-367-3418, cshwhalingmuseum.org