How to Sabotage Your Art Shows

Sales and Gallery Openings

Feeling too famous? Selling too much art? Getting too popular? Based on actual experiences I have had with artists at their openings and shows over the years, those are about the only logical conclusions I can come to. The same goes for gallery owners, collectors, consultants, and other veteran art people who regularly attend openings and shows).

Seems like some artists are just plain determined to undermine their careers. Now if you're wondering whether that statement might describe you, then check out these proven methods any artist can use to sabotage their art openings, open studios, or any other occasions where their art is on display and they're in attendance and interacting with the public:

* Tell people you'll be on time for the start of an event and then show up late.

* Once there, act important, distracted or preoccupied. The key here is to look as unapproachable as possible.

* Speak only with people you already know.

* Disappear for significant periods of time during the event and make sure you tell no one where you're going. Or tell someone where you're going and then go somewhere else.

* When people ask you questions about your art, tell them you don't know or haven't really thought about it. Or answer them, but look really put out by it.

* When people ask about the significance or meaning of your art, tell them it means whatever they want it to mean. Or tell them the art speaks for itself.

* When someone asks the price of a piece of your art, tell them you haven't priced it yet. Or that you don't know or you're not sure. Or that you're still trying to figure it out. Or better yet, ask them how much they think it's worth.

* Talk to one person for a really long time (preferably someone you already know and can speak with anywhere) and ignore anyone else who looks like they want to speak with you. (I actually had an artist tell me once that he'd get to me as soon as he was done talking to his next door neighbor. You guessed it. I politely waited for more than a reasonable length of time and then left.)

* Act like you can't wait to end a conversation with someone, and then as soon as it's over, start a conversation with someone else and act much more interested in them.

* End a conversation abruptly for no apparent reason, walk away, and start a whole new conversation with someone else.

* Walk up to anyone who has a profile in the art community like critics, collectors, influencers, or curators, introduce yourself and immediately start talking about yourself and your art... whether they're interested or not. Better yet, tell them you'd like to explain your art and don't wait for an answer; just start explaining, piece by piece by piece. The longer you talk and the fewer opportunities you give them to respond, the better.

* Talk about all of your past or recent art world accomplishments with no prompting whatsoever.

* Drop lots of names whether you have any personal involvement or connection to them or not.

* Badmouth other artists, galleries, or museum shows if anyone brings them up.

* Talk about how much better your art is than that of (put name of famous artist here).

* Talk about all the attention you really deserve, but are not currently getting.

* If you're showing at a gallery and someone asks whether you have any flexibility in your prices, suggest that if they buy directly from you and not through the gallery, you'll sell it cheaper.

* If you see someone you don't like or who you don't like talking too, even though they may have some standing in the community (like a collector, critic or curator), rather than bite the bullet and be nice to them for maybe 30 seconds or a minute, evacuate the premises the instant you see them coming... and make sure they see you doing it.

* Deliberately avoid eye contact with, or better yet, look straight through people who you can tell would like to speak with you, but for whatever reason you decide to ignore.

* Ignore someone based on how they look, what they're wearing, or their age.

* If you notice that someone is interested in speaking with you while you're speaking with someone else, don't even acknowledge their presence.

* Surround yourself with several friends at all times so that no one has easy access to you.

* On the opposite end of the continuum, hover around your art and as soon as anyone even comes near it, tell them you're the artist and ask if they have any questions, what they think of it, whether they like it, etc. Whatever you do, just keep talking.

* If you're in a group show and see someone looking at another artist's art, walk up, introduce yourself and tell them they might want to look at your art too.

* Launch into long and detailed explanations of your art whether the person you're speaking with asks for them or not.

* Make sure you explain your art in terms hardly anyone can understand. Confuse people by using as many complicated art words as possible.

* If someone can't figure out or understand what you're saying, act like they should know exactly what you're talking about and that not understanding it is their problem, not yours.

* Disagree with people's impressions or responses to your art and correct them as often as possible.

* Act like you're having a hard time believing that someone you're speaking with isn't already familiar with you and your art.

* Drink too much, smoke too much, or do whatever else you have to do to make sure you're completely out of it for the duration of the event.


* Now that you know WHAT NOT TO DO at your art events, you can read all about WHAT TO DO here: Art Opening Protocol 101


(art by Micah LeBrun)

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