Going to an Art Gallery Opening?
Etiquette No-No's for Artists
and Everyone Else
Want to make as bad an impression as possible at an art gallery opening you've been invited to? Here's all you have to do to irritate and offend not only the artist and the gallery owner, but also anyone else in attendance who's seriously interested in seeing, learning about or buying the art that's on exhibit. Sad to say, these are all actual behaviors that I have either seen myself or have been told about by others (mainly artists, gallery owners and gallery personnel)...
Behavioral blunders for artists:
* Without asking anyone for permission, pass out your business cards, brochures, artist book or announcements to your upcoming shows to as many people as possible, especially the artist and the gallery owner... and then leave. Do this repeatedly at every gallery opening and art event you attend.
* When no one is looking, discreetly leave your business cards, brochures, show announcements or catalog of your art at various locations around the gallery.
* If you know the artist or gallery owner, monopolize as much of their time as possible with conversations that the two of you can have anywhere and anytime. Ignore the fact that the purpose of the opening is for the artist and gallery owner to do business and sell art.
* Ask the artist if they can get you a show at the gallery. Do this regardless of whether you have any idea if your art is a fit with what the gallery shows.
* Ask the artist to introduce you to the gallery owner.
* Ask the artist to talk to the gallery owner about you and your art.
* Introduce yourself to the gallery owner on your own, say you're a friend of the artist, and then say that since they like the artist's art, they should probably take a look at yours too.
* Corner the gallery owner and tell them you really need a show at their gallery.
* Ask the artist or someone who works at the gallery if they can give you any inside tips or advice on how to approach the gallery owner and get a show at the gallery.
* Ask a staff person seated at a desk to pull up your website on their computer so you can show them your art.
* If it's a group show that you applied for and didn't get in, confront the curator or juror and demand to know why your art wasn't accepted.
* If you hear either the artist, the gallery owner, or gallery personnel talking about anything that even remotely resembles an opportunity to promote yourself or your art, immediately interrupt the conversation and start talking about you.
* No matter who you're talking to, talk only about yourself and your art.
* If someone points out a collector, go over, introduce yourself, tell them you're an artist, and start talking about your art.
* Badmouth the art in the show, and then tell whoever you're talking to how you would have done it better... including the artist.
* Tell people that your art should be showing at the gallery instead of the artist's.
* Whip out your phone and start showing people images of your latest art, especially if you're talking to the gallery owner or the artist.
* Pull a piece of your art out of your backpack and start showing it to people, especially to the gallery owner or the artist.
* Post links to your website, social media pages or images of your art on any posts or pages with invitations, announcements, coverage or discussions of other artists' shows.
* Post an announcement for your upcoming show in the comments sections of invitations to other artists' shows.
Behavioral blunders for everyone:
* Act like you're at a party and completely ignore anything having to do with the artist, the art, or the business of running a gallery.
* Introduce yourself to the artist and then talk to them for as long as possible even though you have no intention of buying any art.
* Introduce yourself to the gallery owner and then talk to them for as long as possible even though you have no intention of buying any art.
* If you represent or sell a product or service for artists, talk to the artist like you really care about their art, and then when they least expect it, try to sell them that product or service. Do the same with the gallery owner.
* If you already know the artist or gallery owner, talk with them for as long as possible about things you can discuss anytime and anywhere.
* If you see the artist or gallery owner is already involved in a conversation and you want to talk with them, barge in, interrupt, start talking, and ignore whoever they're talking to. Or walk up and tell them you're about to leave, hug them, and then start a long conversation. Or act like you haven't seen them in 10 years and start a long conversation.
* No matter how few price lists are available at the front desk, take one and carry it around the gallery with you the entire time you're there, whether you're looking at it or not. When you're ready to leave, fold it up, put it in your pocket, and take it home.
* Tell the gallery owner you really like a particular piece of art, ask them to put it on hold for you, and then wait a week or two before telling them you've decided not to buy it.
* Ask the artist if they'll put a piece of art on hold for you so you can buy it directly from them for less after the show is over.
* Ask the artist to donate one of their works to your favorite charity.
* Ignore the gallery and ask the artist for a discount.
* Ignore the gallery and ask the artist if they'll take barter for their art.
* Tell the gallery owner you don't really like anything in the show and that you'd like to visit the artist at their studio to see whether they have anything there you might like more.
* Tell people they should have bought the artist early on while the art was cheap... like you did.
* Tell people the artist's art you bought three years ago is better than anything at the show and only cost half as much.
* Tell people the artist used to be better and that you can't stand their current work.
* If the artist is well-known or famous, tell people they're a sellout, has gone commercial, and is no longer a "true artist."
* For whatever reason, use the occasion to deliberately snub or ignore the artist, gallery owner or both.
* Stand in front of a single piece of art with your friends and talk for half an hour straight without ever moving or even thinking about occasionally checking to see whether you're blocking anyone's view.
* Take phone pics of every work of art in the show.
* Repeatedly photograph a particular work of art until you get an image you like. Then keep standing there while you caption and post it to your social media pages.
* Pass your phones around to each other until everyone in your group gets their picture taken standing next to the same piece of art. The more people in your group, the better.
* Video a single piece of art for at least a minute, preferably longer.
* Stand near or preferably in an entranceway, doorway, hallway or narrow passageway with your friends and talk for half an hour straight without ever moving or thinking that you might possibly be blocking access or impeding the flow of traffic.
* Wander into the gallery's back room or storage area and start sifting through their art.
* Even though the catalog for the gallery show is clearly priced and for sale at the front desk or counter, act like you have no idea you have to buy it and just take one.
* Wear a backpack that extends at least 12 inches out from your back.
* Bring your pet(s). Don't worry about leashes.
* Pull chairs up to the gallery director's desk and feed your children Cheerios and juice drinks (yes, this actually happened).
* Play games with your children that involve running around the gallery.
* Let your children run loose until someone asks either you or them to stop.
* Go around telling people there's a better opening at another gallery nearby.
* If someone is trying to get by you or around you, completely ignore them, stay right where you are and keep talking to your friends.
* The instant you arrive, head straight to the food and drink area, help yourself, and stand there eating, drinking, and talking. Don't worry about blocking anyone's access.
* Ask all kinds of questions to the person tending the bar and spend as much time as possible deciding what to drink while everyone else waits.
* Never stray more than five feet from the food or drink area.
* Have no intention of buying any art or contributing in any way to the opening event, but consume as much food and drink as you can. If possible, act like you haven't eaten in a week.
* Approach the artist or gallery personnel like you have a question about art, but instead, point to the refreshment table and tell them they're out of wine glasses.
* Come into the gallery, look around, find the beer or wine, pour yourself a glass, and then either stand outside the gallery and drink it, or leave completely.
* Complain about the quality or brand of FREE beer, wine or liquor that's being served.
* If hors d'oeuvres are being served, stand as close to the staging area as possible so you can serve yourself first the instant any new food comes out.
* If people are serving hors d'oeuvres on trays, follow them around the gallery and repeatedly help yourself.
* If the food's good, stuff some into your purse, pockets, or backpack for the road. And grab an extra beer or two while you're at it.
* Set your empty wine glass on a pedestal that has art on it. Better yet, set it down while it still has wine in it.
* Leave as soon as the alcohol and food run out so you can go to another opening and continue eating and drinking there.
* Hit on anyone you find even mildly attractive.
* Drape your coat or jacket over a pedestal that has art on it. Better yet, hang it on a piece of art.
* Lean on the art.
* Touch the art.
* Get drunk. Better yet, arrive drunk.
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