The current waft of heat over London reminds me of a recent trip to Paris with a dear friend who’s not mad keen on galleries. She knows I do love a bit of culture, so she kindly allowed me to take her to three places and then said she’d really enjoyed it. Emboldened by this triumph, here’s my list of top tips to entice the gallery-phobic among your family and friends to enjoy a smidge of art this summer:
Art galleries and museums are often air conditioned or at least have nice cool galleries. This could be a real selling point if you’re in a very hot country. Even in the Louvre, there are rooms full of really unfashionable Dutch cattle landscapes where you can position a sweltering friend or loved one close to an aircon unit.
Always know where your exits are. When you get on an aeroplane, there’s a safety drill telling you how to get out. In my view, galleryphobes would be much happier if someone pointed out all the nearest escape points as soon as they walked in. As their guide, you must familiarise yourself with the ways out just in case.
Point out that there’s a great cafe and/or shop attached to whichever museum you are visiting. I did this in Paris, promising a terrific cafe at the Monet Marmottan, only for my friend to discover there was no such thing and we had to go elsewhere for a reviving coffee. Oopsie, my bad.
Once you’ve got your companion safely into the museum, and have worked out your escape route in case of extreme boredom and also got a fix on the cafe/shop location, you can introduce a little art. I recommend looking at a maximum of four paintings initially. If you don’t know the gallery beforehand, try and research it a bit in advance and work out a swift route between the things you particularly want to see.
If things are still going ok after your initial four artworks, you may be able to attempt more, but look out for those little warning signs like massive strops, sulking, refusal to move and tears.
At the end of the visit, go to the shop or cafe and, if possible, reward the companion with at least a postcard, if not a slap-up lunch. After all, they have moved out of their comfort zone and done splendidly.
If you’re lucky, this will mean more cultural trips on another occasion. If things haven’t gone too well, at least you’ve seen four pictures you liked and probably got a matching tea towel as well. Good luck with your mission!