Gallery Etiquette and Other Harsh Truths

Saturday, May 20, 2017
From all my years of working in a gallery setting (and just working with people in general) it's become evident that not all people know what to do in every situation (shocking, I know).  Some people have no idea how to behave in a gallery setting, and that's ok!! I'm here to help you.

1. If the gallery serves food or drinks, don't leave your plates/napkins/cups/beer bottles/wine glasses laying around the gallery.  
Though it is our job to clean up at the end of the night, we really worry about the artwork and if something gets spilled on it's kind of a problem.  I've actually seen people put their plates and cups down ON artwork. Not cool, man.

2. Please don't try and pitch your work to us at an opening. 
This is probably a whole other post in itself, but please don't pitch your work to a gallerist at an opening.  Most galleries don't accept unsolicited submission in the first place, so please don't bring a portfolio with you.

3. Don't "geek out" too hard. 
Ok, we know it's your favorite-artist-since-forever's opening and you're so excited, but please try to keep your fanboy/girling
to a minimum.  Artists can sometimes be introverted and screaming at the top of your lungs when you finally see them can scare them (and the rest of us too).  Be respectful.  It's ok to ask for a photo, but try not to monopolize their time or ask them a bajillion questions.  Think of it like this-they're at work tonight.

4. Keep your alcohol consumption under control. 
We've all seen it.  There are those people who run the gallery circuit on opening nights and wait for the drink to be put out, or keep coming back for refills on the Pinot Noir.  There are often times fragile and exceptionally expensive artworks at these openings, and you don't want to be stumbling about and knock something over, or spill your Malbec on a valuable drawing. Have a couple glasses, and chill.

5. Pets. Leave them at home. 
Unless you are on familiar terms with the gallery or gallerist, leave your pets at home. I've had clients bring their dogs to openings, but I know them and they know our gallery. When in doubt, leave the pooches (or other critters) at home.

6. You are not an art critic. 
And if you are, you'd know not to vocalize your opinions at the opening. It's incredibly rude to give a negative opinion about the curation, the space, the work, the food, or anything really at an opening. If you really are an art critic or reviewer, you know to keep that for print. I've actually heard patrons exclaim "I don't like this" at an opening.  Incredibly rude.

7. No one cares about your art.  
Again, it's not the time or place to try and push your art.  No one cares if you're an artist, or what kind of art you make.  This is not your show. However, it is ok to introduce yourself to the gallerist, but keep it short and sweet. "Hi, my name is blah blah blah, I love your space. The show is great. I'm an artist as well." If they keep the conversation open and ask you about your work, answer, but don't offer to send them samples of your work unless they ask and don't draw the conversation out too long.  If they're interested, they'll ask.

8. It's not Art History 101 and you're not the professor.  
Please don't pretend to know everything about every art movement in the world and how this particular work relates to any one of them.  Most of the people in the room probably know already. That's the kind of crowd these things draw...
Things that ARE ok to do:
  1. Take a checklist. That's what they're there for!
  2. Ask questions about the artist. Or if the artist is there, ask them questions about their work (but don't monopolize their time).
  3. Sign the guestbook.  You don't have to leave your email if you don't want to, but we want to hear from you.
  4. Dress up a little.  Not necessarily your Sunday best, but put on the good jewelry if you want.
  5. Stay for the whole thing.  Just don't stay beyond closing...
  6. Inquire about pricing.  If you're interested in buying, by all means ask about prices.  Gallerists are more than happy to show you around and talk to you about collecting if you're interested.  Some people are shy about asking for prices, and every gallery is different, but if you want to buy we want you to.  Some galleries will offer to send you information via email, so bring business cards (it's often easier to pass a business card to the receptionist or assistant than to write down your email and name and contact info).
  7. Have fun.  While the art world has a reputation of being stuffy, we're all here to have fun and look at some great art.  Your presence supports the artist, and your enjoyment will probably make you want to talk about it which will make others want to come too.  Word of mouth is big.  
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