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Omphaloskepsis Blog

Bad Artist! 5 never-do behaviors and how to fix them

Feb 10, 2017

The wrong approach

I'm currently taking Sharon Louden's Creative Capital's webinar series about approaching the gatekeepers in the art world and LOVING it! On the topic of conversation during the third of four sessions I asked the question:

What do you think about artists approaching you during your opening reception to ask you to promote their work to the hosting gallery or taking out their mobile devices to show you their work?

Sharon's response was swift and unequivocally clear that the behavior is:

  • Self-serving
  • Terrible
  • Not thinking of the other person
  • Not celebrating the person having the opening at the gallery
  • Incredibly disrespectful
  • Completely inappropriate
  • Shocking

I couldn't agree more!

Here are 5 things NOT to do at another person's opening reception (and what to do instead):

1. Do NOT ask an artist at their opening to bring your own work to the gallery owner's attention. Aside from being all the things Sharon pointed out above, it also assumes their relationship with the gallery owner has already been well established and is on firm footing, that they have the kind of relationship already built with the gallery owner that would invite this kind of dictation about how they should conduct their business. You are there at this opening to celebrate the person who's opening it is. Instead of making an outrageous, self-serving, opportunistic, tone deaf ask--look at the work, interact with the people, hear what their saying, and be helpful! Congratulate the artist! Tell them something positive you may have seen or overheard about the opening, let them know you see them and appreciate them.

2. Do NOT pull out your device to start flipping through your own work at someone else's event, even if they ask to see it! Use a custom Chinese people employ, if they ask 3 times, then take their information and promise to get in touch. And then actually follow up with no expectations! Really, honestly, amazingly, this event, this person's opening reception is not for you! They have a job to do. Their job is to meet and greet people and interact with as many as possible, make the audience feel good about them being there. That's hard to do with you standing in front of them for 30 minutes flipping through your images! Stop it.

3. Do NOT block their conversation! You don't know all who are in the room and who they need to connect with. If someone else walks up to your conversation or is waiting on the edges to talk to the artist, include them! Smile, introduce yourself, shift your body over so that your body language includes them in the space.

4. Do NOT monopolize their time. Once again, this event, opening, open studio, is not about you. Unless you're hosting it and paid for it and promoted it, you can lay no claim on it. So stop pissing on it. Be conscious of the amount of time you spend with them. They are hosts, and as hosts, have a responsibility to all their guests. This is not the time to back them into a corner and talk about all of your ailments, everything that's wrong with your career at the moment, the amazing trip you just took in great detail, or your political exasperations. (yes, all this happens to me on a regular basis). Connect, be pleasant, be interested, be curious, ask a thoughtful question, sign their guest book, introduce them to someone they may not know, usher that person over to the guestbook and tell them something wonderful about the work and the artist. Then move on.

5. Do NOT walk into a gallery opening OR an artwalk with a fist full of promotional cards about your upcoming show, walk straight in, past the art without even looking at it, and directly up to the artist and thrust your promotion in their hand. Stop it. Just stop that practice right now. It's so rude! Instead, walk in, smile at the artist, thank them for having their studio open for the public, take some time with their work, think about it, take a moment to connect. on your way out, sign their guest book, leave your email address, write a little note about how their work affects you and then let them know you left your postcard UNDER their guest book. On the postcard write: I loved seeing you tonight and your recent work! Great Job! or Keep it up! or Kudos! or something like that. And leave it at that. Or say: I'd love to see you at my opening next week if you can make it! Or: swing by the gallery next month if you get a chance! Or take their business card and do all the same via email.

Building relationships takes time and energy and you have to put the work into it. Many of you who actually know me may laugh at me saying that statement. I don't go to many openings. I'm introverted AND I have a family—so my time is guarded and admitedly how much time I invest in connecting with my peers is less than ideal. However, I do understand why and how I need to do this and  to avoid those five behavioral mistakes above.

Think of it this way, be interested—not interesting. Be generous and celebrate other artists' voices.

I'd love to hear about your experiences either on the receiving or the offending side and how you managed to right the situation.

[Thumbnail Image from Trung Pham's opening reception Cracking Power | Tobya Art Gallery | Jan 13, 2017

Category: Art Business
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