The Rules of Art Gallery Etiquette

POSTED IN Art, Art history, Culture
By Ifeoma Halim
If you are new to the art scene, welcome to what could possibly be the most interesting chapter of your life. There is so much to learn and consume, increasing your appreciation for the enthralling lifestyle. Galleries are usually the first point of call for the arts newbie. Visiting can seem nerve-wracking at first. Like everything else under the sun, a little guidance goes a long way in ensuring you get the best out of each visit. I don’t have a padded guidebook, but hopefully, these tips give you the start you need for your learning process:


Do your research

Find out all you can about the artist and the exhibition before the event takes place. What is his or her predominant art style? Whimsical? Abstract? Conceptual? And how much do you know about these styles anyway? Also, it’s worth studying the different art movements – futurism, post-modernism, surrealism and the likes. The more you know, the richer your conversations with guests will be. Those who matter, the artist and dealer included, will definitely take notice.


Keep it moving

It’s fine to stand by a painting and discuss it with guests for a few minutes. You need to take in the art after all, and truly reflect on what it offers. However, any time frame that’s longer than 15 minutes is frankly unacceptable. You are not the only guest. You don’t want to stop others from admiring the art, so keep it moving


Don’t badmouth the artist(s)

Be careful not to air distasteful opinions about the artist(s) and their works out in the open. Gossip travels fast and you don’t want to be the reason behind an artist’s downfall. If asked for your thoughts, be as polite as possible, dishing honesty with tact when the situation calls for it.


Don’t make a scene

Guests are there to see art, not you as a source of entertainment. So from getting drunk to throwing tantrums, refrain from certain behaviours at all costs. If you get into a heated discussion with anyone, be quick to excuse yourself before things get out of hand. Quick default excuses include needing to visit the restroom or refill your drink.


Don’t bring young kids along

It’s advised that children under seven years of age are left at home with a caretaker.This is simply because keeping them at ease – or quiet – can be a hassle most times, so spare yourself the stress.


Don’t touch the art

You can cause serious irreversible damage in the process of touching to examine. With this in mind, keep your hands off the art and appreciate it with your eyes only. It’s another reason why bringing your kids along might be a bad idea. They are more likely to touch the artwork out of curiosity.


Do mingle with the guests

This is especially if you are a professional in the industry. Do have conversations with as many people as you can and make connections. You never know who your next client or collaborator could be. It is also likely that you will see familiar faces at these gallery events. When you do, make sure you say hello, an air kiss or gentle hug being welcomed gestures. Catch up on details of their recent gallery visits, asking questions to update your knowledge of the Nigerian art scene.


Don’t reproduce the art

It’s not unheard of for certain individuals to take photos of art with the intention of reproducing it elsewhere. This is plainly intellectual theft, and needless to say, a means of robbing the artist off of possible earnings he or she could have made.


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