17 Excellent Tips to Enjoy Art for Free

17 Excellent Tips to Enjoy Art for Free

Art sometimes has an elitist character. Artists are partly the cause of this – yes, guilty, me too at times *blushing* – by stating that the public does not understand our art and thus creating an unnecessary distance. 

Self-proclaimed art lovers are partly the cause of this by being haughty and feeling they stand above the masses. While of course, everyone can enjoy art. And don’t worry: not all art needs to be understood or even liked.

In my (free) eBook “How to get the most out of a visit to the museum” I give tips to enjoy art, but museums usually require an entrance fee. How can you enjoy art for free?

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Enjoy art for free

If you want to learn more about art but don’t want to pay for or can afford high entrance fees for the renowned museums, there are plenty of places where you can enjoy art for free. For example, look in parks, public buildings, or the library.

How do we school ourselves in art appreciation?

Middelheim, Antwerp, Belgium

Likes and dislikes are a funny business. Have you ever run into someone you dislike at first glance and like on second thought once you got to know him or her better? The same applies to art. If you delve deeper into it and learn more about the backgrounds it is easier to value art more.

Even when we know more about art, we keep our preferences. After all, we can’t like everything equally.

Still, it is better to be able to say: “I don’t like this, because the use of colour is not my taste” or “because it gives me wrong associations” than to say “Pff, this is worthless, it’s ugly and my little brother can do this too.”

You will find that if you know more about techniques and visual elements, you can appreciate art better.

Where to enjoy art for free

eBook How to Get the Most out of a Visit to the Museum

Art in public space

Squares, remarkable places, roundabouts, or buildings, there are many places where artists contributed with a statue, an installation or a relief. Sometimes commissioned and sometimes because an artist felt the drive to make something.

Lunch concerts or performances in the park

Not just painters and sculptors are the artists, but also actors, musicians, architects, dancers, etc. Check the “What to do today” section in your local newspaper or find out if your city or county has published a calendar of events.

Public Library

Writers are artists as well. Besides books, there are piles of magazines on various topics to see in the library. A lot of libraries also offer free access to the internet. That’s very useful if you’re travelling and want to see what’s going on and don’t have access to the internet any other way.

Gather information

Beaufort, Belgium
Art project on the Belgium coast called Beaufort

Background stories and interviews in newspapers, brochures, leaflets of artists or on internet sites, – if you have background information you will enjoy art even more. Make a scrapbook collection of physical pieces or save internet information on Pinterest for later use.

Art Routes

Many artists participate in art routes and open their ateliers on these occasions. And is your favourite artist not one of them, call him or her and ask if you can come along to have a look at their work. Most will say yes or can give you the addresses of galleries where their work can be seen.

Galleries

Thank goodness there are not many galleries that pretend to be a museum and ask for an entrance fee. You can often already see art in the shop window, so when they are closed you can still enjoy the work on display.

Idee-Shop, a German webshop (easily translatable in Chrome)

Centres for Art Education

Pupils shows, performances, exhibitions in Art Education Centres are often free admissible for the general public. And if a family member or friend is one of the participants it’s even more fun to visit, of course.

Festivals

Design events such as the Dutch Design Week or photo festivals as PHotoEspaña often have exhibitions outside or parts of their program for free.

Visit a museum

Yes, I know, this article is about enjoying art for free and museums have an entrance fee. However, some museums give free access for a day or a few hours. Some museums do not charge an entrance fee for the permanent collection, only for temporary exhibitions or special occasions.

Child's grave, Ulvenhout, the Netherlands
It’s heartbreaking to walk around in the children’s department of the cemetery

Cemeteries

I hope you don’t think this is a bit of creepy advice. There are great sculptures on cemeteries. It might be just a little statue or small houses. Usually, the devotion and the emotion with which these works of art are created are literally heartbreaking.

Related: Making a Ceramic Memorial: Fishing Disaster in Morecambe Bay

Churches and temples

A lot of religions have a rich tradition of music and songs. Attending a mass, even if you are not a member of that specific church, can be a great musical experience. As on the cemeteries, the art in churches is often made with a lot of passion.

Television

There are several programs on television that contemplate art. Other programs show a portrait of a specific artist or of an art movement. And if an event is big or international enough, it will get an item in the news.

Radio

Listen to classical music on a specialized station. Or listen to discussion programs about music. Spotify will have replaced the radio for many and the offering of all kinds of music is huge.

Internet

Every artist who respects himself has his or her own website. As well as every museum, theater, and concert hall. This does not always contain work that can be admired, but it is in any case an excellent starting point.

Highly recommended is the Google Arts & Culture project, which even has its own app for smartphones. It contains works of art and virtual tours.

Guided tours

Most guided tours with a human being as a guide will charge you. But many cities have information on paper or an app for the smartphone so you can walk a do-it-yourself guided tour.

Mons, Belgium
Mons / Bergen, Belgium

Estates and mansions

Some estates have a public garden or open their garden for part of the year. The combination of architecture and landscaping can be amazing. Many people who can afford it, have an art collection and if you’re lucky, this will include outside art.

Show off as being an artist yourself

Did you cook a delicious meal and serve it in a nice way? Did you decorate your wall? Sown flowers? Making art is creating. Whenever you make something beautiful, delicious, or new, you can feel the same joy as an artist. And so will your public.

To sum it up

There are a lot of ways to enjoy art. I certainly do not say that every art form should be free, because art has a very important function in our society and artists have to make a living as well. Art broadens your horizon and brings a lot of joy to peoples lives.

Can you add a tip on how to enjoy art for free? Let me know in the comments.

This article is an update. Originally published on 5-11-2012.

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22 thoughts on “17 Excellent Tips to Enjoy Art for Free”

  1. Hi Hannie,

    Thanks for sharing ways to enjoy art for free. I love using the internet to view paintings from famous museums, and it’s free. For example, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York offers digital images on its website, and some are available for free downloads. The same for New York public library offers 672,300+ digital collections online. As for my city, there is also a museum offering 70,000+ images for free downloads, which is the National Palace Museum. If people are interested in art, there are plenty of free resources online, only costing your time researching online, not your hard-earned money. Even Spotify offers a free version for personal computers. 🙂

    Matt

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing those resources, Matt. Some museums are absolutely marvellous in sharing information about the works they have. The newsletter of the MoMa is just as recommendable. They show remarkable artists and projects.

      I didn’t know Spotify offers a free version? As far as I know, it is only free for a month. But then again, €9,99 per month is not too much asked. In the old days, I used to spend more money on CDs. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment and take care.

      Reply
  2. Wow, these are all great places that we didn’t even think of seeing free art. We love art and how it makes us feel. It has a calming sensation to it and depending on the art and where we go to see it make it funnier. We pay to get into art galleries, we don’t mind. We do think you shouldn’t have to pay to see art.
    The article is filled with places to go for enjoying art for free.
    Cheers,
    MnD

    Reply
    • I partly agree with you, Matthew and Deloris, I don’t mind paying to see art either. In a museum, that is. But since I know from my own experience how much brokerage a gallery asks from the artists, I consider galleries that charge admission as those who eat both ways. From the artists as well as from the visitors.

      On the other hand, art cannot always be freely viewed, an artist must also live. We also think it’s normal to pay an entrance fee for a theatre show or movie, don’t we?

      Thanks for your comment and keep on enjoying art.

      Reply
  3. You know, it’s funny you mentioned the example of not liking someone at first sight and then liking them later when you get to know them. I remember my first day in class at University; there were two girls who were chatting constantly. I found the lecture really interesting, so their endless chatter annoyed me to no end. I seriously disliked those girls. Well, guess what, we ended up becoming the best of friends, lol. We hung out a lot during our time at that university. They were smart, inquisitive, and a lot of fun.

    I’m a writer and I’ve always said that writers are artists too because we also create something. We create whole new worlds in our books or make existing ones adventurous, scary, or what-have-you. Throughout my life, I’ve always related the most to artists, any type of artists, painters, musicians, writers, …

    Art critics can indeed be intimidating and they sort of make us “common” art admirers feel inadequate to express our opinions about a certain art piece. I find a lot of self-proclaimed art critics behave rather haughtily and with a know-it-all air. Well, the ones I have known. I’m sure there are others who are much more approachable; I just haven’t met them yet 😉

    Cemeteries have indeed beautiful sculptures. If you ever go to Havana, Cuba, you must visit the Havana cemetery. It has become a popular tourist spot, since it is a place that teems with amazing sculptures and beautiful art. I know you’ll appreciate it 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Christine, yes, writers are definitely artists as well. You are quite right there. I sometimes forget to mention other disciplines than my own, which is clearly the visual arts. Yet, to admire a greatly written novel or poem is a true joy.

      LOL, maybe you have met more approachable art critics but didn’t notice because they were not behaving haughtily and you just thought they knew a lot. 😉 Anyway, I can assure you those people exist. And most of the time, they are the people that are most knowledgeable and skilled. This often is the case in any profession, don’t you agree? The best people are the most humble ones.

      Thanks for your comment and keep on writing.

      Reply
  4. Why do I like to see and make art? To broaden my horizons, while enjoying the learning process at the same time.

    Reply
  5. No, not an eighteenth tip. I do want to say that coincidentally a day ago I heard Jeroen van Merwijk’s (old) argument that it is strange that everything in this universe is allowed to cost money, EXCEPT art…

    Reply
  6. My tip? Declare yourself an artist and enjoy your own art.

    I do that myself in my meditations. I often start my meditation with movement. I can move in different ways. I can work on my muscles or on my flexibility, but I can also make very soft flowing movements where I have the intention to move ‘from beauty’. That is then pure enjoyment of your own art.

    Beauty, the feeling of wealth and the musical are largely the results of your own mindset. If it is my intention to live in and from beauty, then I can perceive that beauty in everything, no matter how harsh or gruesome reality may look.

    I have to take an effort to remind myself of this possibility because my ‘daily’ mind can be angry and tend to emphasize the ugliness of life.

    In this way, a culture barbarian can still enjoy art.

    Reply
  7. I very much agree with the reaction that Kees de Kooning gave on 9 November. I would like to add to the solutions, don’t just think of landscape architecture, but make it bigger and also step into the estates, beautiful (and with some background information, you even see more), landscape architecture, cemeteries are sometimes gems, actually, I would want to say “if you look around you see that everything is coloured”, and that can also be explained in other ways.

    Go to the school of your (grand)children, and try to see the artworks of the little ones. Let them make an “exhibition” of it. Also at creativity centres, the children’s department alone is worth going to. (E.g. Hoogstraten in Belgium, the IKO) and so the possibilities are for grabs, literally and figuratively.

    I myself literally grabbed things for a long time. I picked up the flattened cans on the street and I did beautiful things with them in my opinion.
    So, think of “objects trouves”.

    Reply
  8. hannie,

    you call it pretending or acting as if. I call it: discover the artist in yourself; and also in the other. I always enjoy things for free. enjoyment is your own, and we can enjoy the other as well.

    pieter
    x x
    x

    Reply
  9. This weekend in Utrecht, the second and last Sunday of the Open Atelier route.
    Welcome to ‘the Timmerfabriek van Rietveld’ on the Adr. van Ostadelaan 54 where six artists open their studios. from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. For the other more than 200 artists see http://www.atelierrouteutrecht.nl

    I also enjoy street musicians.
    and people who have paid attention to their appearance.

    Reply
  10. I always enjoy the art cards that are for sale everywhere, in the good bookshops, the organization Plint, in museums, etc. You can buy one, but you don’t have to and then you have enjoyed yourself!

    Reply
  11. The Internet is also a source of free art viewing and enjoyment. Of course, art must be experienced ‘in real life’, but the Internet can be a great orientation. Discover art worldwide from your living room! And follow your favourite artists (photographers, visual artists, musicians or orchestras/groups).

    Reply
  12. The sun rises for nothing! Each expression of art costs money and is ultimately paid for from entrance fees, government subsidies, corporate sponsorship, membership or voluntary contributions to associations and promotional activities by galleries. The cost allocation makes the difference.

    Some more tips:
    classical music on radio 4, Klara and Brava;
    architecture through city walks (routes at the tourist office);
    join art routes and visit gardens on open days (landscape architecture)
    special church services (with organ and choral music)
    show an interest in art expressions among family and friends and ask why people have chosen these objects.

    Reply
  13. I love many art forms, including poetry and for a few years now I have been joining the poetry salon of Kunstkring SIRKEL in Mortsel.

    How does a poetry salon function?
    Well, we are 7 people and we each choose two poems that we like ourselves. Then we read the first poem a first time, then we hand out the poem and it is read a second time so that you can follow it on paper.

    Then we discuss that poem, not literally but rather the feeling… did it appeal to you and why? or not?
    That’s how we go around with everyone.

    For me, it is always pure enjoyment in very nice company. And we take turns doing this at each other’s home while enjoying a delicious glass of wine with some nibbles. Our ages are quite different so both contemporary and somewhat older poets are discussed.

    We meet every 6 weeks, and I think that’s a great arrangement.
    I always look forward to it. The advantage is also that I read more poetry again because I always want to come up with a nice poem!

    One of us even sang a song on a guitar, because he liked the lyrics so much. And now I found a CD at the book fair containing 20 animated films that were made as a result of poems. So I already know what I’ll be serving the ladies/gentlemen next time when the poetry parlour continues at my house! I can’t wait to share this with them.

    The tentacles of poetry extend far, even into my painting!

    Last week we went to the Middelheim Museum in Wilrijk (Antwerp) and there were art books by various artists available for inspection in the Braem Pavilion. Also for free.

    Reply
  14. And then of course GLOW in Eindhoven, a fantastic light sculpture festival throughout the city and completely free!!:

    From 10 to 17 November, the public space in the centre of Eindhoven will form the backdrop and stage for GLOW. Artists and designers from home and abroad show light art and design applications that have been created through the use of new media technologies such as computers, sensors, and animations, but also through more familiar projection techniques. More info: https://www.gloweindhoven.nl

    Even more fun things from Eindhoven: the monthly FEELGOOD MARKET, a free design art-and-fun market, at Strijp S or at Piet Hein Eek’s doorstep.

    So and now I go back to work….have fun with the free art experiences!!!

    Reply
  15. In the coming weekends (10 Nov to 2 Dec) there will be a very nice exhibition that is free to visit in Zoetermeer. KERATEX 2012:

    Twenty-eight professional ceramists selected by Terra Art Projects will present their vision of the relationship between ceramics and textiles. Each will exhibit up to five works over four weekends in the TERRATORIUM exhibition space, ranging from small figurative works to large abstracts designed entirely with clay and textiles.

    LOCATION TERRATORIUM, Bredewater 16, Zoetermeer
    https://www.terra-artprojects.com
    The exhibition can be viewed every weekend from 13.00 – 17.00 hrs.
    Opening: November 10, 4 pm

    Reply
  16. I think you are already very complete, Hannie!

    What do I do to enjoy art for free:

    – I view the exhibition at the Lange Voorhout in The Hague every year, I go to the sand sculpture festival in Scheveningen, view the temporary exhibition in the Atrium of the City Hall…

    – they often have exhibitions in the Library in The Hague, so I go there regularly and not just borrow a book or read a professional magazine

    – in the waiting room of the physiotherapist, the specialist in the hospital, the general practitioner or the obstetrician there is often also a changing exhibition, but whether you can enjoy it at that moment… 😉

    – there are cafes where they exhibit, but then you can argue about whether that is still free, because often you are supposed to order at least a cup of coffee…

    – for music, radio can also be a source of free art; my father listens to Radio 4 in the mornings at the weekend to beautiful performances of unknown pieces/composers, I listened with him on Sunday morning, wonderful!

    Reply

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