How to behave at an art show

Have you seen “Cars 2”? There’s a scene toward the beginning of the movie where Mater and Lightning are at a fancy pre-race party in Tokyo. The bumpkin tow truck thinks wasabi is pistachio ice cream, so takes a huge bite of it. Once it burns, he charges through a waterfall to cool his mouth. Of course, he embarrasses his race car friend and makes a fool of himself in front of a large crowd.

You might be afraid of making yourself look that silly at an art opening. So you don’t, here are three quick things to remember about how to act at an art show without looking dumb or embarrassing anyone you are with.

1. It’s a party. The first thing to remember about how to behave at an art show is that it’s a semi-polite party. It’s essentially a cocktail party with art as the reason for getting together.

There will be a mix of yuppies, socialites, hipsters, and hippies. Nearly everyone will have an intellectual viewpoint about something. That’s fine, just don’t be a jerk about it.

There will probably be something of an irreverent spirt since artists have a tendency to see themselves as iconoclasts and prophets holding a mirror to society with their art. The more “alternative” the space (the more grungy it is, like an old warehouse with broken windows) the more irreverent it will be.

2. What to wear. Artists are surprisingly conservative in the way they dress most of the time, usually opting for jeans and a black t-shirt. You can’t go wrong with black, either. Dress it up with a jacket or scarf and you’ll be fine. The idea is to let the art be the star, not your clothes. (It’s not the 80s anymore. And 80s art was even more self-important than the clothes.) This is part of why artists tend to wear clothes that make themselves invisible. I could go into the psychological/philosophical reasons for this, but that’s a topic for another day.

3. Don’t get drunk. Remember the story I told about the artist who got drunk at the opening and hit on all the girls? Yeah. Don’t be that guy.

Getting drunk on free alcohol in public is just tacky, anyway. It should go without saying, but it just makes you an obvious freeloader who can’t control himself. That’s a surefire way to embarrass the people you’re with, art show or not.

That’s pretty much it.

That’s about it for how to behave yourself at an art show. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Now, I know you might be a little concerned about the biggest thing of all at an art show: the art itself. I mean, art is just weird sometimes, isn’t it? In the next post, we’ll talk about the sort of things you should say about whatever is on the walls. It takes a little bit of education, but it’s really not that bad. I promise.

What about you?

If you’ve never been to an art opening, what are you nervous about before going? Or, if you’re an art show veteran, what makes the new people really stand out, and not in a good way? Share it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Photo Credit: moominsean via Compfight cc