The Art Gallery Method

Posted by Jill Chivers in Shopping Strategies

One of my favourite methods of shopping mindfully is to use what I call the Art Gallery method.

This is a simple shopping strategy where you pretend you are in an art gallery instead of a store, and you treat the items in the store as though they were objects of art in an art gallery.

You admire these objects of art.  But they aren’t for sale.

You can imagine what the artwork might look like in your home.  But you can’t buy it and take it home.

You may experience feelings of desire, and that is okay.  You just can’t act on it and reef the art work off the wall or the plinth it is balanced on and take it home (they call that “stealing”).

I only use it because it works

I find this method works a treat.  It also means I can take that attitude of ‘art appreciation’ and apply it to all the items I see, including those I don’t actually like or would ever want to own, for what they are.

This method dislocates me from the “Love it – must buy it!” mindless shopping cycle that can be so easy to get caught up in, and trapped by.

Oh, and there is no gift shop where you can buy a poster knock off of the real thing.

young woman in art gallery

If you want to try this for yourself, here are my 3 tips for adopting the Art Gallery shopping strategy:

  1. Pretend you are in an art gallery where everything you see is there to be admired – you can appreciate as much as you want.  There is no limits to how much admiring you can do of the items you see.  Art appreciators say that you need to understand why you like or dislike a piece of art (not just whether you like or dislike it), and this kind of “assessing behaviour” can be applied to the way you view items in a store — see it as a chance to educate your eye and inform your sense of style, without dipping into your wallet or adding to your wardrobe.
  2. Nothing is for sale.  It simply is not possible to buy anything.  And since we know you’re not an art thief, everything you see will be staying where it is.  Since there is no end to the art that is available to be viewed, you need not worry that the art you just saw will be ‘moving on’, as another show will come along in its place very soon.
  3. If a particular piece is calling to you and you are starting to experience strong feelings of desire for a particular piece, reflect on the items you already possess, and how you can get greater value from them in terms of use and appreciation.  You may wish to ask yourself some smart questions (perhaps these ones could help in the heat of the moment) that will keep you centred and calm, and tapping into feelings of enoughness.

young woman window shopping


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    4 Responses to “The Art Gallery Method”

    1. Robyn says:

      Hi Jill, What a lovely idea this is! It makes appreciating and enjoying possible – and even a little thoughtful criticism – without the need to own. It also allows for pinching good ideas for combining things. I’m thinking of extending the metaphor to being a curator of my wardrobe so that when I return to clothes shopping one day it will be on the basis of occasionally adding to an already carefully curated collection. Following your principles, only the best, most suitable item will do and it must cohere with the exiting collection. It will have been planned for, budgeted for, and only when a good case has been made for the acquisition can it be made. (I also like that weasel word that galleries use, ‘deaccession’, for sliding the no-longer-wanted items into a transition zone on the way to the charity shops or the rag box. For every acquisition there must be deaccessioning. Oh I have no idea how to spell it!) Very good wishes for the holiday season and thanks again for your inspiration, Robyn

      • Jill Chivers says:

        hi Robyn, yes I’m enjoying using the art gallery method more when I am out and about (which I seem to be doing more of during the summer holidays here in Australia over Christmas, and with friends and family visiting who want to spend time in shopping precincts around where I live). And I also love the idea of being the curator of your own wardrobe, and creating something truly beautiful (and I would add, workable and useful). And yes, the deaccession principle is a great one!

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