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Are You a Guest at a 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 artist book 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 at 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 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 and start talking about your art.
* Badmouth the art in the show, and then tell whoever you're talking to how you would have handled it better.
* Tell people that your art should be showing at the gallery instead of the artist's.
* Whip out your cell 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 networking pages or images of your art on any social networking posts or pages where you find invitations, announcements, coverage or discussions of other artist's 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 them, start talking and ignore whoever they're talking to. Or you can hug them, act like you haven't seen them in 10 years, tell them you're about to leave and then start a long conversation, etc.
* 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 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 you're not really interested.
* Tell the gallery owner you don't really like anything in the show and that you want to visit the artist at their studio to see whether they have anything there you might like more.
* 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.
* If the artist is well-known or famous, tell people he's 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 or gallery owner.
* 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.
* 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 catalogue for the gallery show is clearly priced and for sale at the front desk or counter, act like you have no idea and just take one.
* Wear a backpack that extends at least 12 inches out from your back.
* Bring your pet(s).
* 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.
* 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 and stand there eating and talking. Don't worry about blocking other people's access.
* Ask all kinds of questions to the person tending the bar and spend as much time as possible trying to figure out 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.
* 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 as possible to the staging area so you can serve yourself first as soon as any new food comes out.
* If people are serving hors d'oeuvres on trays, follow them around the gallery and repeatedly help yourself.
* Set your empty wine glass down on a pedestal with art on it. Better yet, set it down while it still has wine in it.
* Hit on anyone you find even mildly attractive.
* Drape your coat or jacket over a pedestal that has art on it.
* Touch the art.
* Get drunk. Better yet, arrive drunk.