Know Before You Go

A Field Guide to Galleries

Everything you need to know before you go to an arts event in a gallery

Before You Arrive

Going to an art gallery? Here's what you need to know before your trip...

  • Dress up. You can leave the evening gown at home, but do try to look nice.

  • Bring warmth. Even if it’s toasty outside, bring a sweater or jacket. Galleries can be cold. It’ll be hard to concentrate on the exhibit if you’re shivering.

  • Bring your tickets. For obvious reasons. (If you’re going to a free exhibit or museum, your probably don’t need tickets.)

  • Bring money. For prints, postcards, or other art souvenirs.

  • Turn off your cell phone. And anything else electronic that could cause a ruckus. 

  • Plan. What will you do if you get separated from your group? Agree on a meeting place and make sure everyone knows what it is.

  • Do your homework. You may want to research the museum and exhibit before the trip. Read up on the artist(s) and work(s) you’ll be viewing. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to enjoy your experience.

At the Gallery

You've arrived! Now what?

  • Map it. Grab a map at the entrance. Plan out which exhibits you’d like to visit. 
  • No pictures, please. Don’t take photos unless you have been told that it’s okay to do so. Check it out online when you get home. 
  • Talk quietly, walk calmly. In other words, don’t yell or run. Be especially quiet near visitors taking guided tours or listening to audio tours on headsets.
  • Read the signs. Big signs often provide background information about the exhibit you’re seeing. Small ID cards are displayed next to individual pieces of art; they include artists’ names, nationalities, and birth and death years; artwork titles; the year the piece was created; and the materials used to create the artwork. For example:

    Teachy McTeacherson
    American, 1982-
    Happy Students Buying Teacher Appreciation Gifts during a Gallery Trip, 2010
    Mechanical pencil on canvas

    There’s no need to read every placard, but take a look at the notes for the works that catch your eye.

  • Steer clear. If a visitor is looking at artwork, try not to cut in front of that person and block his or her view. Galleries and museums can get awfully crowded, especially in front of famous works of art. Be patient. It will be worth the wait.  
  • Say hello. To museum docents, who provide information about exhibits to visitors. Also say hello to guards, who often stand in or near a room to make sure that nothing happens to the artwork. Did you know that any one piece of artwork can be worth millions of dollars? The guards aren’t just here for show—they have the serious job of protecting valuable art from any mishaps. 
  • Don’t munch. In most galleries, no food, gum, or beverages are allowed outside of the cafeteria (if there is one). If you’re thirsty, you can often find water fountains near the bathrooms.

  • No touching. That means pictures or anything else on display. That also includes sculptures, which are not jungle gyms, even if they’re outside.

  • Relax. If you see a bench, you can sit. Give up your spot more quickly if other gallery guests look tired and need a seat. Exception: Do not sit on the bench if it is roped off or behind a sign that says, “Ancient Bench.”

  • Catch a screening. Often, museums feature a video about a special artist or subject on exhibit. Take a time-out. Have a seat and catch the video. You’ll learn a lot of interesting information. (Yes, even without popcorn.)



Marina Ruben
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

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