Q&A: Alison Pierz’s “Slow Art Day” at the Brooklyn Museum
On Saturday April 11, people all over the world will slow down. At least that’s the intention of Slow Art Day, a day dedicated to discovering the joy of looking at art — and taking your time doing so. Each year, volunteers in cities across the globe choose five works of art at a particular institution and guide a tour group to look at each piece for 10 minutes, followed by a discussion what they saw, thought, and felt over lunch. This year, four-time veteran Alison Pierz will host one such tour at the Brooklyn Museum; those interested can meet her there on Saturday at noon. So, in order to prep for our languid day of art-spotting, we asked Pierz about her choice of institution, the works she’s going to spotlight, and the overall importance of slowing down.
Why do you think Slow Art Day is important — and why did you choose to get involved as a tour guide leader?
Slow Art Day was conceived as an international event with the idea being that the art viewing experience should be completely accessible to anyone anywhere there’s art to be seen. It’s important to me firstly because it is geared toward bringing people to art in an easy way. Visitors are asked to simply come and look and draw their own conclusions, inspirations, etc. I’m personally, as well as professionally, interested in the larger “slow movement” which aims to get twenty first century people to step back from our culture of speed and work toward a more mindful lifestyle. I live in New York and, because of my interest, contacted Slow Art Day’s founder Phil Terry a few years back. This lead to my becoming a volunteer host and this will be my fourth year participating.
Why did you choose the Brooklyn Museum?
In the past I’ve brought people on gallery tours in Chelsea and Brooklyn. This year, I thought I would go a different route and choose a larger museum. Coincidentally, the person who had planned to do the Brooklyn Museum dropped out along the way, so I decided to step in. I could have chosen a major museum in Manhattan, but I feel the Brooklyn is somewhat less chaotic (especially because we’ll be there mid day on a Saturday) and will be a nice environment for our viewing. There is also a Chelsea gallery group planned this year, so by including Brooklyn, New Yorkers have a choice of different locations and experiences.
Which five pieces did you choose and why?
The Slow Art Day format suggests choosing five pieces in advance and sharing this information with your group. I’m experimenting with a slightly different angle this year. I have chosen the exhibitions/galleries that we’ll be viewing, but saving the specifics until we arrive. In this way, the viewers will come across the works with truly fresh eyes and I’m curious to see their reactions when they haven’t had a chance to do so much “homework.” Two works [will come] from the ongoing “Connecting Cultures” exhibition, one Jean-Michel Basquiat, one Kehinde Wiley, and Chitra Ganesh’s “Eyes of Time” installation. I think viewers will get a nice range of works to look at, but they’ll also be able to make a number of comparisons which should hopefully spur our conversation.
What do you hope to get out of the day?
Several things: First I enjoy bringing people to art and guiding them through a viewing experience. For myself, I always enjoy slow viewing and challenging myself to see things in new and fresh ways. I also happen to be in the process of writing my masters thesis on this very subject, so my observations this year will have the added meaning of contributing to that project. My long term goal is to help popularize the concept and encourage more and more people to view art in a slow, mindful and meaningful way and in doing so help them to see art as an important part of their lives.