Gallery Etiquette 101

Here are some of my thoughts on how one should and sometimes should not behave in a gallery.  If you have a question I did not address please comment and I will respond.

“Can I look at the art in a gallery even if I know I can’t buy anything?”

Sure.  I understand that not every one who walks in the gallery is going to buy art.  In fact, I would say that most do not.  However, if you stop coming in, you will never find a piece of art that you can’t live without, and therefore buy art.  I will add a few sidesnotes.  You do not have to make excuses as to why you don’t buy art (not enough money, space, knowledge).  Just enjoy the art and say “thank you” when you leave.  Also please know that while it is understood and expected that not everyone who walks in the door buys art, if we don’t sell art, we go out of business.  So someone has to buy something at some point.  And they do, but know that just telling us how much you love the gallery and how great we are will not keep the doors open and the lights on.  We are fortunate to have many wonderful clients.  We hope, if you are not already, we can add you to that list soon.

“I don’t care for some of the work.  Am I allowed to say that?”

Yes, everyone gets to have an opinion.  Not everything is going to fit everyone.  There are however ways to express your opinion that are not offensive.  You can say that a particular piece or artists work is not your taste.  You can say that you think one piece is not as strong as another.  You can point out the pieces you like and then say which ones you don’t care for as much.  You should not say “My kid (dog, sister, aunt, pigeon etc.) could do that.  First, I doubt that is true.  Second, even if you do know someone who could replicate a particular piece of art, they did not have the idea in the first place which is kind of cheating.  Lastly, it is simple common courtesy to treat others with respect.  You don’t go to someones house for dinner and criticise the way they cook.

“Do I have to whisper?”

No.  You may talk in a normal “inside” voice.  I ask that you don’t yell.  But you don’t have to be quiet either.  You are also allowed to talk to me.  Whenever I am in the gallery I make an effort to say “Hello” to everyone that walks in the door.  I am genuinely glad to see you and want you to know I belong to the gallery.  Many times I know more about the art or artists than is posted on the wall or written on the website.  I also am priveledged to spent a lot of time in the gallery.  So at the very least I have an opinion.  I am happy to discuss any or all of these things with you.

“Can I bring my artwork in for you to see?”

No.  We do have submission guidelines.  They are posted on our website.  We do not do in house viewings for a couple of reasons.  One, it is a three person panel that reviews and selects the art.  Rarely are we all three there at the same time.  Two, it is incredibly disruptive to have to stop what I am doing, and possibly neglect customers to view work in the gallery.  We would love to see your work.  We just ask that you follow the protocol.

“I don’t know anything about art.  Can I still visit the gallery?”

Of course.  Part of our mission is to make art less intimidating.  We don’t buy the premise that art is for the elite and educated.  Anyone can enjoy art.  I feel the more art you see, the more you will know.  You will begin to form opinions and I (as I stated earlier) am always happy to have a conversation about the artwork.

“I love your receptions.  Is it ok that I come to all of the receptions?”

Yes, it is great that you come to the receptions.  It provides an opportunity to meet some of the artist and commune with others who appreciate art.  We want it to be an enjoyable evening.  That is why we provide some nibbles and beverages.  I will say though, that although we do provide food and drink that it is not meant to be an all you can eat and drink buffet.  It is meant to be a few bites and a glass (maybe two) of wine as you talk to people and enjoy the art.  I also would recommend coming to see the art at another time as well.  Although the receptions have their purpose it is nice to see the artwork when it is not crowded.

“Can I bring my children to the gallery”

Yes, by all means, bring the kids.  I try to talk to children that come in the gallery and emphasis that we look with our eyes and not with our hands.  I also try to encourage them to talk about the artwork.  What they like or don’t.  Kids have a very pure and I find often insightful view on art.  As with anywhere else you take your children, you are responsible for them when they are in the gallery.

There you go.  I hope that this is helpful information.  I look forward to hearing any other gallery etiquette conundrums.



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