A visitor looking at a Constable painting

How long does it take to look at a piece of art? Studies have found that people devote as little as eight seconds to each work in a gallery. But on Saturday 28 April, gallery goers across the world will be invited to slow down.  A  lot.

Slow Art Day challenges you to spend five, 10, or even 15 minutes in front of a single artwork. By engaging with a painting, sculpture or installation over a longer period of time, you might gain a deeper understanding and connection to the piece.

At Tate Britain, visitors will be given a selection of artworks from the collection to look at for 15 minutes each, before discussing them over lunch.

‘Some artworks, probably most, only reveal themselves the longer you look at them or when you return to them,’ says Paul Langton, who is leading the event at Tate.

‘Often we feel that we need to rush around the gallery and see everything. Sometimes people are so busy that they have become used to doing everything quickly, but is art made to be looked at in that way? If memories or feelings arise from viewing, slow art offers a longer time for you to process and understand them.’

Slow Art Day began in 2009 as a single event at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This year, almost 100 galleries around the world will be taking part, from Austin, Texas, to Auckland, New Zealand.

Of course there are drawbacks to slow art. If you wanted to spend 15 minutes looking at every piece in Tate’s 70,000-strong collection, it would take 12 hours a day for four years. If you only glanced at each for eight seconds, you could see everything in a mere fortnight.

Paul Langton’s quick tips for slow art 

  • View a piece from different angles. Walk to the side, go further away, come back close. What happens then, does anything change for you? What materials are used and why? 
  • Another strategy would be to check when it was made and ask yourself what was happening in society at that time. Was it ahead of its time? Is it saying anything about where it was made or the time period it was made in? Is it relevant now in 2012? 
  • If your attention is wandering take a short breath and wait a minute before you go to the next artwork. Ask yourself why this piece is making you want to move on.

There are still some places available on the event at Tate Britain on Saturday 28 April – book your tickets now . Or why not try looking at an artwork for 10 minutes the next time you visit?