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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Best Practices: How to Behave at an Art Opening

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 9:30 AM

It's nicer to buy something than to shoot a digital photo of it.
  • It's nicer to buy something than to shoot a digital photo of it.

For cultural neophytes, visual art openings at galleries or museums can be a confusing affair. What's that on the wall? Who are these people? Why is there cheese here? What is this place? Get the most out of art with these guidelines.

Introduce Yourself to Street Artists

If you see a street artist, inquire about shaking his hand, because it's like sex for your hand. If you don't know any acrobatic handshaking sex positions, simply hold out your limp hand and declare: "Do what you will with it (I love your work.)" If he wants to fist bump, even better, because you can explode that motherfucker.

Start the Discussion

When critiquing an art, the only words you need are "neat," "wow," and "cool." If you need more, what are you doing, writing a paper? We heard one guy cover the north wall of the Shooting Gallery with three "wows" and a "neat," and he absolutely nailed it. When viewing photography you can add, "I could've done that," because you could've done that. Fucker just pressed a button.

You can bet that at least half of these anonymous-looking people are bloggers -- speak clearly so they'll understand you!
  • You can bet that at least half of these anonymous-looking people are bloggers -- speak clearly so they'll understand you!

Ignite a Star

A shocking mythology can really move paintings. Take Dash Snow. Without his legend, he was just another young man masturbating on the morning paper. So go ahead and help an artist out. Just say, a bit too loudly for someone who came alone, "I believe she was born in the Vegas tunnels," "I heard he makes his own crack," or, "I think this is part of a long con he's running with the Dominicans," whenever you find yourself near someone you think is a blogger. Which is everyone! Hah! That part is mostly sad.

Conceal Alcohol in a Paper Bag

If you think parading around a 40-ounce bottle of beer is too literal for a gallery, art it up with a soiled brown bag. This says, "cirrhosis chic," "Am I going to sleep outside tonight?" and "I have a hash pipe." Further, no one will know you're drinking High Life. Why are you drinking High Life? I don't know, but that's a stupid question to ask anybody drinking High Life.

Compare Everything to the Situationists

Or just say "Guy DeBord" every 15 seconds like you've got Situationist Tourettes. This lets people know that you're some kind of genius -- a genius at being an asshole! In your face, Situationist!

We're sorry. You really are a genius if you know about Situationism.

We don't think Mindo Cikanavicius is a Situationist --  but no one within earshot knows that.
  • We don't think Mindo Cikanavicius is a Situationist -- but no one within earshot knows that.

Befriend the Snack Table

When shopping, the gallery owner probably paused before putting the last bottle of wine in his cart, thinking, "Do I need one more? I probably need one more. I should get one more." He didn't realize it at the time, but he was thinking of you. Tell him so as you drink a whole bottle of wine. He was also thinking of you when he bought the nutty cheese ball and the second bag of napkins.

Say Hello to the Brushstrokes

Step close to an art, halve the distance, halve again, and continue halving for a good long while.* Commence scanning -- top to bottom, left to right. Imagine you're dusting the work with your eyebrows. Why are you doing this? Because you're acknowledging the brushstrokes, even if there are no brushstrokes -- no brushstrokes are as good as brushstrokes when you're in the critical game, and fuck if you aren't in the bullshit now. Whisper to anyone nearby, "Hey, no brushstrokes!" or "Wow, brushstrokes!" You might also whisper, "Please, help me" if you can't remember what you are doing (the wine). Acknowledging brushstrokes establishes that you are an art player, that this is some Clement Greenberg-type crap you're playing, and that you know how to appreciate the paintingness of paintings even when there are no paintings -- fuck brushstrokes, anyway. Do this to everything in the gallery -- you never know what is not art -- and remember that humming sound is everybody whispering nice things about you; it's not the helicopters.

*If your nose touches the canvas, hold it there, alert the gallery owner, explain your predicament, and ask for help in determining the best method for removing your nose without damaging The Work. Gallerists invariably choose slapping you the hell off it.

Take the Broad View

To gain a full measure of a piece, step to the back wall, keeping sightlines clear by apologizing for your infectious rash. Now keep going. Experiment. See what art looks like from the sidewalk or the liquor aisle in the store across the street, or from your couch in front of a sandwich and the Onion's SportsDome on Comedy Central (Tuesdays, 8/7c).

Steal the Show

Taking over someone's else exhibit with a guerrilla installation is the de rigueur ne plus ultra for the young, rebellious artist with shit for ideas. How to proceed? Why don't you cover yourself in blood and slump against the wall, dead? Done. Art. Now ask around for a stipend.

Stand near a real artist such as Laurel Shear (only, face the photographer, like she is). It's a good way to get in a photoblog.
  • Stand near a real artist such as Laurel Shear (only, face the photographer, like she is). It's a good way to get in a photoblog.

Get in a Photoblog

If you want to be microfamous, stalk photographers while looking at the arts as boringly as the wine allows. It can pay off: Get in www.artbusiness.com three times and a 7X7 editor will wake in a panic wondering where in the hell you got those wonderful pants. Expect a short profile.

Buy Something

If you've ever been in a gallery and wondered, "Hey, is this stuff for sale?" good for you. Through the selling of art, the artist makes a living *cough cough.* Many pieces are bought by speculators in the hope that the artist will become, in two years and whichever order, famous and dead. In the interim, the work is given to family members -- right now, all across Pac Heights, Mission-style creepy-cute cartoon beasts decorate the bedrooms of children who always have to say, "Oh, that's my dad's."

The casual buyer, however, might wonder whether that $500 or $15,000 is a solid price. Here's a secret: Just shove $250 down a gallery owner's pants and whisper, "Hey, Guy Fieri. I was never even here." Please don't tell anyone who told you to do this.

Last Notes:

If you're looking at abstract expressionism or high-resolution canyon photography, you're in the wrong sort of gallery. Get the hell out of Union Square. If a band starts playing, don't get all excited and forget about the art. Music is always pulling this shit with art.

Authentic semen has a subtle crosshatch, so bring a magnifying glass.

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Michael Leaverton

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