How to pick a lovely temporary exhibition?

Apart from permanent collections set on display in museums for years, an exciting part of visiting museums is a good temporary exhibition. 

During my last winter trip to Italy, my first stop was the city of Verona. When walking the street, I noticed lots of commercials for the exhibition called “The Language of Beauty”, a large project presenting the Mayan Art. I visited this exhibition because I was looking for something like that. It was nicely promoted, and seemingly popular amongst people of Verona at the moment. I paid attention to details and noticed that I have time to do it, and energy, of course. How could you find an exhibition you will love to visit, and actually go there?

This is your guide to searching for temporary exhibitions, selecting which one to visit, and enjoying the visit.

1) Get prepared

Temporary Exhibition Jean Sibelius
When visiting Helsinki, Finland, I found a nice, musical exhibition, about the composer Jean Sibelius in the National Museum of Finland.

You may plan which museums, castles, palaces, religious buildings (churches, monasteries mosques etc.), sports venues or historical markets you will include in your wishlist or in an actual timetable. Plan some temporary exhibitions too. Try taking a deeper look at the museums’ websites, particularly in the “news” or “blog” sections. A classical National Museum may have a large exhibition of works of your favorite painter and you will not want to miss it. There might also be an exhibition that will tell you a short but clear story about what you want to know, better than a large permanent exhibition.

2) Make a budget for temporary exhibition tickets

Museum tickets might be expensive. Costing 14EUR, the ticket to the exhibition about Mayan Art was not cheap at all. However, it included a high-quality audio guidance. Some museums will get you a ticket that includes everything within the visitors’ area, but you will usually need to pay as much as 1o additional euros (or dollars) to see a temporary exhibition – even though you paid 15 euros for the basic entrance. This suggestion goes in line with the previous advice – if a visit to a temporary exhibition is really important and valuable for you, take you time, and prepare a budget.

3) Research for critical reception

This step will be particularly interesting to the most passionate fans of culture travel. Find the venue’s social media pages and read their posts about the exhibitions. See if there are user comments. Try understanding how people react on that. Once you arrived at the venue – notice who is buying the tickets. On the exhibition about Mayan art, I noticed crowds of local people younger than me. It was a nice signal that the exhibition is worth to visit. It’s like picking a right restaurant – if you see many (local) people eating there, it must be a good place.

4) Have a passion

What kind of exhibition do you want to visit?

This is the question of all questions. So many times I struggled with time and overthinking what exhibition do I really want to visit. Do you like to see Van Gogh, Picasso, Michelangelo, or some excellent examples of craftsmanship?

The Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb has an active exhibition scene. Every time I go there I simply plan to see a temporary exhibition, sometimes without knowing which one is currently opened. Almost every time it’s a sensation. In February this year, I visited their exhibition featuring “The Nutcracker”, a Russian ballet. A number of lovely ballet costumes made me want to see the ballet, and I believe that most performance artists would love to visit this museum.

5) Exhibitions are not always in museums

I call my blog Fun Museums, but I write about heritage and culture travel. It goes far beyond the museums’ walls, don’t you agree with me?  The “Language of Beauty” was not installed in a regular museum but inside a simple local event venue. You may find temporary exhibitions in churches (inside the sacristy or crypt, for instance), and they may not be largely promoted online. Try seeing local posters and notice if is there anything interesting to you, if you have time.

6) Do not forget about the outdoor events

Land Art by the Praça do Comércio Sqaure in Lisbon
This was a view from a simple art gallery where I found a temporary exhibition and got a view of a land art performance.

Art happens everywhere, and street art is something many bloggers and travel publishers recommend to look for when visiting cities. During my last trip to Lisbon, I found a nice exhibition in the art gallery located at Praça do Comércio Square. But the view from the gallery is what made it wonderful.

It was not really street art although it was happening on the street. It was a kind of performance, but I would even like to call it land art. Lisbon and the Tagus river live in the symbiosis, so outdoor performances on this place are basically a combination between land art and street art.

Most of these exhibitions were not designed and collected by a professional curator. Artists organize it by themselves in most cases. But, there are more and more culture professionals researching these fields of arts.

7) Make spontaneous choices – and slow down.

Albertina Museum Wien Temporary Exhibition
Albertina Museum, Vienna, July 2015. The exhibition “Drawing Now”.

When I arrived at the Albertina Museum in Vienna to see a temporary exhibition, I first decided to put the signage in context. I had decided to come here before, but what really motivated me to enter was the Museum’s nicely painted staircase.

Once you picked an exhibition and arrived at its venue, slow down. Observe the venue, get the feeling. Watch on the map, notice the flow. Read about the story’s background, the personnel, and try having as much idea as possible. If there is an audio guidance or a good booklet, don’t miss to take it with you. Stand in front of the objects you particularly like. Be respectful to other visitors though, and give them space to stand. I’m always respectful to the no-photo policy if they have it. In this Albertina case (picture above), I was warned to not take pictures. I said “I’m so sorry”, and continued visiting the exhibition (this picture was legal because I took it before entering the official exhibition area :D)

At the end, try remembering exhibitions you visit, buy a memory pencil, or a keychain. At least keep a ticket or a flier. Maybe you will find a similar exhibition somewhere. Soon I will prepare a complete, comprehensive guide to visit museums and attractions, highlighting other useful tips.

temporary exhibition guide

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