Some people like to plan their trips, to the last detail. Some like to wing it. Me, I'm a planner, but in moderation.
I'd never, until recently, thought of planning what to look at when I visit an art gallery, though. I generally just go, and wander.
But researching your visit to a museum or gallery makes sense, especially if you anticipate only having a short time there, and especially if it's a huge place with way more than you can take in comfortably in one visit.
Planning museum visits is really easy to do now too, thanks to some great Websites and mobile apps from major and minor museums.
The Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London, the Louvre in Paris, Prado in Madrid, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), Guggenheim and Frick in New York, the J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles all have online goodies and/or apps that make it easy to plan.
Many include virtual tours, videos and audio commentaries on displayed art works, including those in special exhibits. (If you have a mobile data contract, you could even use your phone or tablet as an audio guide when you visit, but beware of roaming charges.)
The Website of the Frick, a small, not-to-be-missed museum in New York, housing the collection of 19th century Pittsburg steel baron Henry Clay Frick, is one example of how it can be done.
The Frick doesn't have a mobile app, but its mobile Website gives you a rotating panoramic view of each room with targets superimposed over the paintings and objects. Click a target and up pops a page with a reproduction of the art and textual commentary from curators. The desktop Website adds audio commentary.
The MoMA AB/EX/NY (ABstract EXpressionism New York) app is an introduction to the museum's defining collection of abstract expressionist works by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
It includes slideshows of beautifully reproduced artworks, more than a dozen high-quality videos featuring curators and others talking about the art, and audio commentaries on selected works.
Some museums, including the Louvre, offer audio guides ($2.99) that guide you through the museum, taking in highlights of the collection and providing audio commentaries on them. They're intended for use when you're there, but can also aid planning.
I've only mentioned the big guns here. If you're planning to visit an art museum on your next trip, however small or out of the way the place is, check for a Website, then check the App Store or Google Play for an app. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Even private commercial galleries, like the Gagosian in New York (and London), are getting into the mobile app game. The Gagosian iPad app (free), a multimedia magazine about the gallery's exhibits, is absolutely gorgeous. Makes me want to go and check it out in person.