I long for a late-night visit to an art gallery, the perfect sober evening option

I long for a late-night visit to an art gallery, the perfect sober evening option

Pre-pandemic, one of my most calming and pleasurable pursuits was visiting Tate Modern near to closing time, which on Fridays and Saturdays was 10pm. In Stockholm, where some galleries are open 24 hours, I have enjoyed visits in the tiny hours of the morning. I am sure some people think such opening hours are excessive, but to a culture-loving insomniac they are a blessing. Now, as evenings get lighter, and venues open up again, I can’t wait to be back at galleries during their late-night sessions.

Dropping in during quiet times takes the experience back to what might still be the stereotypical idea of visiting a gallery (languidly walking around, somewhat pretentiously pondering) but which usually is an experience squeezed out by masses of tourists and gift shops sometimes larger than the exhibitions.

How I love, then, taking a friend and sitting on the rooftop terrace at sundown with cocktails after an all-but-private showing. Or realising after a full day spent hungover in bed that I really should get up and do something, and alighting upon the perfect sober evening option.

During peak times, I often cajole friends into accompanying me through exhibitions from finish to start, so that we move against the crowd and don’t get stuck in bottlenecks. But late at night you could do starfishes and not bump into a single rucksack, selfie stick or sketching art student.

There are places that would be awful to visit devoid of people; it is often people who provide the atmosphere that makes those places great. Imagine going clubbing solo (this is why I don’t get the appeal of silent discos, which might as well be the same thing). I often think that being a celebrity and getting hassled all the time would be truly hellish, but the alternative of having a restaurant closed especially to eat there in private would be, too. You would be eating among the skeleton of the place, without all of the life.

That’s not the case with galleries, when other people don’t really add to the ambience. One can appreciate more viscerally the often vast spaces and architectural detail as well as the art within. I doubt opening hours will extend to pre-pandemic levels for a while, given the time it will take to deep-clean, and with visitor slots spread out, but I hope in the not-too-distant future I’ll be back, pretending for all the world that I own the place.

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