Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Survive Art Openings: A Quick Guide

The fall art season has commenced and it is both exciting and exhausting to think about.  I’m not an opening reception junky but the shows that usher in the season in the first weeks of September are more then just making-face-time, it is about getting back into the swing of things and to see what is to come during the rest of the season.  Going to openings is a social affair.  It is less about the art, because really, you will barely see much of anything, but more about the collective presence of being a part of the community of artists and the scene that is NYC’s art world.  Below is a quick guide and tips on how to survive this fall madness of art so that hopefully by the end of it you don’t just want to stab your eyes out and say, “I don’t ever want to see another piece of art in my life!”  Just remember, art is the best thing ever.  Say this as a mantra as you go through the crowds and brouhaha.

Wear Comfortable Shoes – Ladies, this is directed pointedly at you but this is true for the fancy guys as well.  Wear comfy shoes.  Walking around Chelsea, the Lower East Side, wherever, will kill your little feet in swift form.   You will also be standing the whole time and no one likes to be thinking more about their uncomfortable shoes then chatting up with new friends and old. 

Wear Comfortable But Interesting Outfit – Openings are about seeing and being seen.  NYC people are generally more aware of their fashion then most but it doesn’t hurt to put a bit more effort in while you pounce around town.  Not too much though.  Trying too hard is the least sexy thing in the world.  Wear something between going on a date and going to a dinner party with interesting people you want to impress.  If you happen to be known for your outrageous fashion flare, keep it up but make sure you don’t wear anything that bumps into things. 

Eat A Snack – I often fail to do this but eating a small snack before heading out to openings can be a saving grace.  Drinking beer after beer, wine after wine at each show you pop into can make you a lush head in an hour flat.  No one wants to be that girl/guy.

Go With 1 Person Only, 2 Max – Gaggles of people are just the worst.  Bopping around lots of openings is confusing and clustered and near impossible to do with a group of people.  Go with 1 person only if possible, if you must go with 2, make sure you have a general agenda before going out or know their character enough to know if they will slow you down or hurry you up.

Go See Art With Art Enthusiasts – You don’t have to be an art insider to enjoy going to openings.  They are like speed dates for high culture.  Art savvy or not, as long as the person you are with is curious, interested and happy to be there it will make the evening fun no matter what.  Going with a grump/jaded/insecure person is just a waste of everyone’s time.

What To Do When You Know The Artist(s) in the Exhibition– So many artists friends so little time.  Making face at friend’s shows is a basic good human thing to do.  It means a lot to them, even if you only chat for a second or two.  Make sure they see you, just a quick congrats will suffice.  This small gesture comes back in fold in all the best ways.

What To Do When You Don’t Know the Artist(s) in the Exhibition but Really Like Their Work – This is odd sometimes.  Going up to a more established artist that makes you go weak in the knees at an opening is a social nuance.  If they are swarmed with people and there is little to no in, then pass it by, if there is a break you can say “hi” and let them know how much you like their work.  Don’t overly chat about the work, don’t go on and on about anything at all really.  If you really love the work and you weren’t able to say anything/chickened out, it is totally cute and fine to send them a message via email through their representing gallery.  Artists are generally super nice and everyone likes fans.

What To Say To Dealers – DO NOT give dealers your website/card/upcoming show/catalog, anything at all if you are an artist.  Dealers are not scoping for new talent at openings.  Leave them alone.  Say hello, congratulate them on the show, ask them about the artist’s work on view but do not try to set up a mini studio visit.  Really déclassé.

Don’t Drink Too Much – Easy to say, harder to do.  Just make sure you don’t get too loud or too stumbly.  And whatever you do, DO NOT, give a jumping hug where all limbs are tentacled around another person.  I’ve seen it happen way too many times.

Sign The Book – This is a nice thing to do and make sure to do at friend’s shows.  Its like a funeral and a wedding all at once.

Read The Press Release – I know this is hard to do sometimes but words help.  Really. Words help.

Make A Loose Itinerary – Write down streets and gallery names you want to see that evening in advance.  It will help in all the melee and when you can’t remember what else you wanted to see after all the chit chat.  Also, this will be super helpful if you end up loosing your buddy(ies) in the mix and talking on the phone is nearly impossible but texting a gallery name is easy-peasy.

Be Nice – Be nice to everyone you meet during openings.  This is a packed situation where you are meeting friends of friends of friends and all the names will slip one ear and out the other but being engaged and nice (genuinely), will make everything lighter and fun.  Being a too-cool-for-school or a sour-puss-know-it-all is just so boring. 

If You Like A Show, See It Again During Regular Hours – Seeing art is very hard to do at these things especially if it is super crowded.  If you like a show in a cursory sort of way at first glance during an opening, make note to come back when it is just you and the light bulbs.