Art Show Etiquette

Art Show Etiquette

October 26, 2023

For this blog post I actually googled "art show etiquette" just to see what would come up. This is the first thing I saw:

"Don't disrespect the artwork, artist, or gallery – Artists are other artists' greatest critics. So mind your manners and think twice before bad mouthing someone else's work, even if you're speaking in a hushed tone. Reserve your discontent for personal conversations in a private setting."

In case you're not aware, it's a very vulnerable moment for an artist to present their work to the world. Why? Because art is a deeply personal thing. It comes from the soul (or at least it should). I have had so many art shows of my own and have heard so many things being uttered amongst the guests. I'm sure the guests have no idea that the artist is listening, but often they are. If you're an artist reading this, please understand that not everyone will like you art. No matter how good it is, there is always someone who doesn't like it. And that's ok. They will tell their friends how much they dislike it, they will groan with discontent, and sometimes they will do just the opposite and say how much they love it. You never know what you're going to get. Hopefully they will save their judgements until they leave the gallery.

I took a poll in my Instagram stories this week asking other artists to tell me the worst things they have been told at art shows. Here is a list of the most heartbreaking comments:

-"My kid could do that."

This may actually be true too, but guess what? Your kid DIDN'T do it.

-"Minimalism isn't art."

I suspect this person doesn't have any education in Art History. Just because you don't like it or don't understand it, doesn't mean that it's not valid.

-"This is too harsh on my eyes"

Ok, that's just mean.

-"We're just looking today"

This is is a nice, gentle brush-off. What they meant to say was "we're looking to buy something else."

-"This reminds me of something I saw at the Dollar Store."

No comment.

-"Your work looks like so-and-so" or "Have you seen so-and-so? They do similar work."

Please don't tell artists this. Think it quietly to yourself.

-"This is too phallic"

Yup, I'm sure it was meant to be. If it wasn't meant to be phallic, then you need to get your mind out of the gutter.

-"Why is it so expensive?"

Great question. Art prices are based on many factors: skill, years of experience, originality, auction prices, material cost, etc. It's NOT based on your budget. If you ask an artist for a discount, you are literally devaluing their work to their face.

-"This art is impractical" "What's it for?"

Indeed, most art is not functional and is therefore "impractical." Unless, of course you factor in the enjoyment factor. That sounds practical to me.

-People call me “artsy fartsy”

I asked this artist what her response was to this statement. Here are her words: "I usually smile and awkwardly laugh because really!?!? I should prob come up with a response and be more confrontational! I feel like saying I have a BFA in graphic design and have run my own freelance graphic design business for 20+ years now….. I’m not sure artsy fartsy describes me. Honestly though I love being creative AND a smart business woman and am HAPPY so if they need to say that because they either don’t understand or are trying to be rude, that’s on them!"


My personal favorites:

-The person who goes right up and touches the art

Just don't.

-“Oh my gosh. Resin is so toxic. I hope you wear protective gear.” 

Do you really care about me or are you just stating your knowledge about resin? Are you aware that I am a professional and have been working with this material for over 10 years?! Art shows are not the place to teach the artist on exhibit how protect themselves from their materials.

-Imagine this: You are at your art exhibit opening. It's opening night. You're glowing with excitement and nervousness. Then, in walks another artist and they ask you how they can get a show at that gallery. 

Stop it! This is neither the time nor the place to discuss YOUR opportunities. An art opening is a celebration of the artist on exhibit. Nothing more.