This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Some friends and I recently had a conversation about what is expected behavior-wise from artists at an art exhibit. We discussed some of the basics of what has come to be known in our circle as the expectations of art exhibit opening etiquette -- and shared stories about artists who crossed those lines during their exhibit openings. Needless to say, I felt it important to address the issue with an article in order to spur a debate about the topic. Point blank -- it is my opinion that the opening of your exhibit is not the time to reveal all of your negative traits to potential buyers and fans. It is vital to keep level-headed and focused on the here and now.
Believe it or not your personality can play a role in how well your art is sold -- especially during an art exhibit opening. As I've mentioned in the past, people can change their mind about art -- no matter how 'great' the art may be -- based on the personality and reputation of the artist. The haughty artist persona -- one who is aggressive in speech and manner -- may have worked for some famous artists... it may even make for a good movie about the artist -- but even those famous examples had critics of their behavior.
Before blazing into the opening of your art exhibit with all the heated flare of Picasso or Gauguin remember that people are coming to see your art -- not to see a jerk. For example, if the exhibit focuses on painting -- I'd bet money that most people are coming to see paintings (and perhaps score some free food and booze in the process.) The average gallery visitor wants to be captivated by what you create... not insulted or shocked by your antics during the opening.
So how can shades of personality become a problem during an exhibit opening? At what point are the lines of etiquette in regard to art exhibit openings crossed? The answers -- at least within the context I'm thinking about -- are relatively simple. With the basics in mind the lines are crossed when the exhibiting artist forgets that he or she is at an opening for his or her work -- when he or she tosses professionalism aside and instead releases an explosive tirade just because someone in the audience got a rise out of him or her -- OR comes off like a cars salesman fetching for future opportunities in an obnoxious manner when he or she should be focused on the here and now... the art that is currently on display for sale.
Obviously the scenarios mentioned above are just two examples of bad art exhibit opening etiquette. That said, they appear to be -- at least to me -- the most common lines that are crossed by artists during an opening. These two paths can impact how gallery visitors view you as an artist -- in the extreme these two paths can turn people off from your artwork. The last thing you want to do is make a lasting negative impression that blocks future possibilities and potential.
If someone says something offensive about your artwork during your opening the best thing you can do is to walk away -- defuse the situation before it becomes explosive in front of all who are present at the gallery. For example, very few exhibit opening visitors want to observe you trade critical barbs with another artist over the foundation of your art. Remember -- the opening is about YOU and YOUR art... don't allow another artist to steal the show by provoking your anger. There is a time and place for heated critical debate -- and in almost no circumstance is that time or place your exhibit opening.
Your art exhibit opening can be a great time to be introduced to future opportunities. However, don't come off like some cheesy car salesman by pitching yourself to every influential person in the building. Trust me on this -- you need to focus on the here and now during the opening. You need to focus on the art that you currently have on display. It does not say much for you if you spend the entire time pitching yourself to every person of influence. Do you really think a visiting art dealer or curator will be impressed at the fact that you are not paying any attention to the opening itself? No. Talk shop during the after party.
In closing, my main point is that artists need to hold themselves to a professional standard during their exhibit openings. In my opinion, that means focusing on the opening itself -- not giving in to every argument that is offered or pitching oneself obnoxiously to everyone in the building. Don't allow your opening to be sabotaged by negative traits. Perhaps you have something to add to the etiquette of art exhibit openings? Consider this an open topic about what is expected from an exhibiting artist behavior-wise during an opening -- and by all means, if you have a story to share... comment with it.
Take care, Stay true