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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. Sad to say, these are 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 show announcements 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 anytime. Ignore the fact that the purpose of the opening is for doing business and selling 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 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.

    * 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 and not the artist's.

    * Whip out your cell phone and start showing people images of your latest art, especially the gallery owner and artist.

    * Pull a piece of your art out of your backpack and start showing it to people, especially the gallery owner and artist.

    Behavioral blunders for everyone:

    * Act like you're at a party or social event 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 that product or service to them.

    * 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 that 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.

    * Put a piece of art on hold and then wait a week or two before telling the gallery owner you decided you're not interested.

    * Tell the gallery owner that nothing in the show is quite to your liking and will instead go to the artist's studio and ask them to make one you like.

    * 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.

    * 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).

    * 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 stay there.

    * 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 loudly about the 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.

    * Drape your coat or jacket over a pedestal that has art on it.

    * Touch the art.

    * Get drunk. Better yet, arrive drunk.

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