Art Show Etiquette

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When attending an art show, there’s a slight chance that you’ll walk through the door and be a little lost. There’s a lot of excitement, conversation, and usually loads of free beer. Mix that all together and it can get rather confusing. Do I try to compliment the artist and their work? Do I fix my gaze on the art and block out the rest?

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To navigate this subject, I asked a few artists to weigh in on some do’s and don’ts for attending an art show.

And the first thing Laura Sinkgraven said is a biggie: “Don’t touch the art!”

It’s not a toy, so no you can’t play with it. It’s not a blanket, so no you don’t need to feel its texture. It’s something that someone labored over for hours upon hours and is pretty proud of, otherwise they wouldn’t be showing it. Get your paws off that art-you didn’t even buy it dinner.

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Speaking of buying dinner, unless you plan on investing upwards of thousands into their art, please don’t monopolize the artist’s time. Remember, a show is an awesome opportunity for the artist to connect with new patrons and find new commission work. Yes, they love what they do, but it’s really cool to get paid for that awesome work they do.

But, with that being said, don’t be afraid to approach the artist. They love talking about their work! Although, I do recommend that you hold off on giving an artist your interpretation of their work, unless they ask for it. And on the note of feedback, most artists are not especially happy with this seemingly harmless compliment: “I can’t even draw a stick figure!” Let me explain. In the words of Ceca Cooper, “What does that even mean? Art has evolved to emphasize the philosophy behind the piece instead of precise physical form”.

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Philosophy is hard to quantify, and so is the mental and emotional time that artists tend to invest in their pieces. Some works sit inside an artist for years before it’s given physical form. Which makes, “how long did that take you?” a tricky question that, honestly, is best avoided.

Wow, that’s a lot of don’ts! So let’s talk about some do’s: Do enjoy yourself. Do spend some time enjoying the work. And finally, do go to art shows, do support local art, and do go to First Friday events. As long as we all remain respectful of the artists, the gallery space and the other art show attendees, we’ll keep having great art shows!

(Special thanks to my friends who weighed in on this-Ceca Cooper, Laura Sinkgraven, Solomon Carlson, and Jordan Thornton.)

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One thought on “Art Show Etiquette”

  1. I had one piece in one show. Not one comment. Nothing. I would have preferred a few “I don’t like it.”s or “It’s weird.” or “Interesting…” over nothing. But I’m not an artist. Maybe it’s different for them.

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