Many art lovers enjoy visiting museums while traveling. They will wax poetic describing their first youthful visit to the Louvre, advise you to get a private tour of the Vatican collection and suggest venturing outside of Amsterdam to the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. But art tourism can be much more, happening both in your hometown and while traveling.
The world is full of exciting art, emerging artists, hidden gem galleries and opportunities to visit studios. Art tours give art tourists, curious locals and veteran collectors insider access to local art scenes around the world.
Who takes Art Tours? Collectors, Students & Curious Art Lovers
Art tours come in a variety of shapes & sizes. Serious longtime art collectors may want to seek out private tours that focus on specific areas of interest. Art tourists may want to visit the galleries with notable shows. While students, curious locals, and adventurous travelers, may be intrigued by emerging art scenes in unexpected corners of a city. An art tour will take you where standard tours do not go.
Bill Cournoyer, founder of The Meeting, focuses on introducing serious collectors to both emerging and established artists in New York City, with tours tailored to both the taste and collecting objectives of participants.
“The Meeting's art tours provide value to collectors by offering a point of view and an edited selection of the most highly regarded and compelling exhibitions and galleries offered in New York City. The Meeting uses collector's time wisely by providing service and their expertise. Group tours generally provide a wider but edited range of exhibitions and gallery programs. Private tours can be designed with the collector's specific goals in mind, while still providing newness.”
Art advisors often use tours to educate and broaden the perspective of collectors—introducing art outside their “comfort zone” and providing an overview of a city or an art fair. Irene C. Papanestor, Principal of Irene C. Papanestor Art Advisory LLC, offers curated looks at the New York City art scene and art fair destinations, including Art Basel Miami Beach. Her tours incorporate satellite fairs around the city, noteworthy gallery shows, and visits to private collections.
“There's so much happening in Miami during the fair season each December that both beginner and seasoned collectors are interested in maximizing and/or focusing their time outside of the big fair…. By the end of the tour, collectors have had a snapshot of Miami's cultural scene and how the city has become an art destination. It's amazing what can be fit into a day or two with the right planning and some well-timed coffee, lunch and/or mojito breaks.” Irene C. Papanestor
London-based Vanessa Curry of Fine Art Source gives tours during the Olympia Fair, “ My daily ’Top Picks’ tour of Olympia Art and Antique fair enables a visitor to London to spend a very efficient period of time exploring some exemplary pieces at the fair whilst learning more about European antiques and design heritage.”
The point-of-view of the tour leader is an important factor—many are led by art consultants or art history teachers; others are led by artists. Jo Wood-Brown, of A Day in Art, leads interactive tours. “I lead the tours from the point of view of a contemporary New York City artist. I hope to help people develop their own aesthetic and to better understand their own creativity by the way that artists reflect on the world.”
Overcoming the ‘Intimidation Factor’
In addition to art tours focused on the needs of collectors, Irene Papanestor leads tours for curious tourists and other people unfamiliar—and often intimidated—by the gallery scene.
“New York is an extraordinary place that's full of venues to discover and I try to demystify whatever may be standing in the way of a person just stepping into it. For people who may never have been inside an art gallery, I walk them through the experience from the very beginning. Some tourists are unsure if there is an admission fee. I've found that once people become comfortable with the most basic elements of how a gallery works, and what one can expect, the intimidation factor dips dramatically and they become free to explore. It's a rewarding transition to witness.”
A good art guide encourages curiosity and participation, inviting questions and candid opinions. Jolanda Chandler leads art tours to both museums and contemporary galleries. Her clients come from all walks of life and may not have any experience with art. She creates a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere—especially for families and people new to exploring art.
“On my last tour of the National Gallery, a middle-aged lady told me she would never have believed before she started my tours, that she could understand art or have opinions about it. And she said that her friends still didn’t believe it! But her confidence is growing now, and she feels that there is now a place for her in the world of art.” Jolanda Chandler
Art Travel for Serious Collectors
Art tour professionals want to share their city, their passion for art and their expertise. This may include exclusive visits to private collections, studio tours and access to the invaluable knowledge of art insiders.
Helen Homan Wu, of Curagenda, encourages her guests to “…utilize every minute they have with our specialists to get the most out of the experience in whatever goals they have in mind.” Her company offers bespoke art tourism to important destinations—including Berlin and Hong Kong. These are geared toward collectors and not the casual art aficionados satisfied with a day or two of major museum visits.
“There is so much happening today in the art world and my focus is to create more personalized art expeditions. As for the travel industry, there is definitely a neglect in offering products focused around art and culture, and that is Curagenda’s starting point. I approach the business with an insider’s point of view, largely through me and my associates’ personal networks, places we have been to, artists and shows we have traveled across the world to see, in order to offer quality travel and inspirational art experiences, and intimate encounters with each city for our clients.” Helen Homan Wu
Art Tours are Art Adventures at Home and Abroad
Treat yourself to a gallery-hopping art experience in your hometown. It might be a great opportunity to introduce your kids to art or to discover a cool, new, off-the-beaten-track gallery scene.
Check out the contemporary art scene wherever you travel—with the help of a local art tour guide. You might even pick up a treasure for your collection—so much better than an ordinary souvenir of your trip! Or enhance your experience of art fairs and foreign travel with the help of an expert insider. Art adventures await you wherever you go.
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