The great art of the world is scattered in museums and galleries far and wide thanks to the spoils of war or commerce, and the best art galleries of the world draw millions of visitors year round.
So on almost any city break holiday - and many other holiday besides - you can be sure of some great art or gallery nearby. The problem is, art has become such a commercial 'product', hijacked to help sell holidays in the tour brochure, that galleries have become ordeals - crowds of tour groups racing from room to room, making it hell for them and everybody else. This is no way to enjoy art! No wonder people feel like slashing the grinning Mona - Leonardo must be laughing in that great studio in the sky.
But don't be put off! There are strategies - first, check out before you go what might be nearby. And don't feel you need to 'do' the entire gallery - this can often leave you exhausted. An hour and a half is more than enough to concentrate, crowds or no crowds. Find the pictures or sculpture you want to see, ignore the marked route, and get to spend some time in front of each, so that, from time to time, you will get space to appreciate the work when the crowds part. Second, make sure you read up about the work or works of art you are looking at - knowing the background will enable you to appreciate it and learn from it so much better. Many of the great collections and art galleries are free, so dipping in and out to see particular pieces can work well.
Last, there are also some great lesser known art galleries which we have attempted to list here, like the Wallace Collection or the Sackler Museum which are worth seeking out - they have some wonderful paintings and sculpture and are much less crowded. An altogether more pleasurable experience than jostling the tour groups in the Louvre or the Uffizi Gallery. And if you are on a tour, refuse the tour group excursion (sensitive, specialist small group tours are the exception). Do it on your own instead. It will be cheaper, and far more enjoyable. Give art a chance!
Experts in Art Collections: Hugh Dunford Wood