HOUSTON, Texas — Have you ever attended or wanted to attend an exhibit of a famous artist? You want to make the most of your time at the museum, right? But what to do? Here are a few things we did before and during a recent Van Gogh art exhibit at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. This will help you create more meaningful museum moments.

First, Mike and I attended a 2-hour lecture about Van Gogh with local art historian, Bridget McDaniel. You can watch this 45-min video about Van Gogh, which can be viewed or listened to in fast speed, if that’s your preference. We also watched a movie about Van Gogh, “At Eternity’s Gate.” Willem Dafoe played the role of Van Gogh. This movie was very visually appealing. After our visit to the exhibit, we watched Lust for Life. What a delight! Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn were Van Gogh and Gauguin. Lust for Life had the better script. Watch both as you will have the best of both worlds… visual (At Eternity’s Gate) and syntax (Lust for Life).

When we arrived at the museum, we entered the exhibit area and walked quickly to its end, working our way backwards. This strategy allowed us to view Van Gogh’s art without a hoard of onlookers. We had almost 30 minutes of “alone time” with his work. I stood in front of several of my favorite paintings, marinating in his colors and textures – it was deeply personal. Because we knew a little about his life, we quickly recognized many of the people and places he painted, his sketches, and handmade bamboo art pens and brushes. The latter were featured in glass cases along the exhibit halls. Don’t miss those!

We made our way toward the beginning of the exhibit. It was full of people and they were, understandably, standing in front of the paintings. That’s when I noticed the wallpaper – it was a map! A map showcasing where Van Gogh lived and painted. I retraced my steps through the exhibit, but this time, noting the walls behind the framed art pieces. Many were his sketches and, they too, were part of the Van Gogh experience.     

There is an ebb and flow of visitors through any exhibit. We yearned for the same intimacy with van Gogh’s art in the entrance area we experienced in the last rooms of the exhibit. For me, that meant fewer people. So we asked a nearby security officer what time of the day had the least amount of visitors. “Right after lunch,” he stated. We returned at 1pm to find a near-empty room. Not only did we experience a deeper connection with Van Gogh’s art, we enjoyed watching others become immersed in their own unique Van Gogh experiences.

Here’s a recap of what to do:

  • Learn about the artist and the art before you go.
  • Start at the end and work backwards.
  • Note the art pieces themselves and other items in the rooms, including the wallpaper.
  • Chat with security about the best times to return to avoid the crowds.
  • People watch – it’s fun.

Now you know how to create more meaningful museum moments. Plan a trip to a museum and go soon. Share your own suggestions in comments.