After a quiet summer, September marks the long-awaited re-launch of exhibition season. But while many of you are buffs on the art circuit, what about those who are yet to discover what exhibition openings are all about? We’ve done a little investigation on gallery etiquette to find out ways in which you can network, meet an artist or simply conduct yourself at a gallery opening or exhibition launch.
Is it easy to meet the artist at an exhibition?
Most artists are more than happy to speak with guests who are attending and are so thankful for the support. Look for a break in conversation or, if a general chat relating to the artist’s works is in progress, join a group of people and when you feel comfortable adding your input, then jump in. However, if you’re feeling a bit shy, you can always approach one of the gallery representatives to initiate an introduction.
What are some ways that you can impress the artist in conversation?
It’s great to come across a guest to the exhibition who is not only familiar with the artist’s work, but has been following his or her work from the start and is knowledgeable about their artistic roots and growth. If you’re genuinely being captivated by the work, taking in the collection and putting consideration into what it all means to you, share your thoughts with the artist and you may find yourself privy to enlightening details about the piece not shared with the casual observer.
How should you comment on their work without offending them? Many artists are quite open to hearing feedback on their work, which ultimately may progress and refine their future work. If you’d prefer to avoid any potential offense though, simply stick with general compliments and congratulations and leave the critical commentary for art critics publishing reviews.
Is it possible to negotiate prices with an artist? The policies for price negotiation vary from artist to artist and gallery to gallery. But if there’s a piece you simply must have that is causing your bank account to grumble, it can’t hurt to approach the gallery or representative to see if they are open to negotiations.
How would you suggest people approach networking at galleries? Given the likely shared interest in arts, striking up a chat about the exhibition you’re both viewing or joining in a discussion about the exhibition is a really easy and appropriate way to start to network. Have lots of business cards ready to go, as these evenings are generally very accommodating to making new connections.
How should you dress for an exhibition launch? While firstly being respectful of the culture we live in, I think just about anyone involved in the arts can appreciate a gallery visitor dressed in a way that represents their individuality. Every gallery has a bit of its own personality and between here, there and the next venue, you may find a terribly chic crowd or one that’s more on the fringe or experimental end of things.
Are exhibition launches an appropriate place for budding artists to introduce themselves to gallery reps in the hope of getting represented? Sure, making contact through a brief introduction with a gallery representative along with a follow-up email the next day is appropriate. That being said, the exhibition launch is a celebration to honour the exhibiting artist and not an open casting call for artists.
Is it rude for people to turn up for five minutes, eat all the canapés and then leave? Well, who can resist the call of canapés? Honestly, I think it’s better to drop in to an opening for five minutes for any reason than not come at all and, after the canapés, you may just discover a new favourite artist or gallery. I’ve not actually noticed that is much of an issue here. This city is full of really dedicated art lovers who, if anything, aren’t yet ready to leave at closing time.
Five steps to being the perfect guest 1 Have an interest in the art/artist; don’t just be a casual viewer.
2 Have fun. The best exhibition and gallery events are always highlighted by lively guests in artistic discussion, sharing creative ideas.
3 Be respectful – of the artist and artworks, the gallery and your fellow visitors.
4 Be considerate of your time with the artist; chances are there are many people who want to share their congratulations and questions with the VIP of the event.
5 Support the artist, gallery and local art scene – through word-of-mouth, shared exhibition event photos on social networks, bringing friends to a show that you loved or, if possible, make an art purchase.