As any art-schooler in New York City can attest, Thursday nights are some of the best opportunities to see what’s new and poppin’ on the art scene, rub elbows with some of the best-known names in photography, painting, and graphic design, and toss back more than a few plastic cups of red wine- or, if you’re lucky, mixed drinks.
For those less-cultured of Bitches who have never endured the typical Thursday-night gallery crawl, do not despair. The Bitches have got you covered, and we’ll be happy to lay out a few of the ground rules for standard gallery behavior.
The good news? Even if you didn’t spend a grand total of $300,000+ dragging your hungover self to boring art history classes, enduring endless slideshows of contemporary works, or attending class field trips at the Met, you can still enjoy a memorable night out at the galleries.
No matter where you choose to venture into the art community, be it Chelsea, DUMBO, or the Lower East Side, here are some of the basics, in terms of Bitch-approved behavior:
- Dress the part. Art openings are huge opportunities for aspiring artists, celebrity-spotters, and people in the know within the arts and culture scene. Even if you’re just there to drink the free alcohol and scope out possible snacks, leave your assless jeans and oversized plaid at home and at least try to look like less of a college kid.
- Whatever you do, do not act a fool. A dear friend of the Bitches was once unceremoniously booted from a prestigious gallery after accidently kicking over a cup of red wine and destroying an entire all-white gallery installation. If one of our crew makes a similar mistake, the only way to get out of a potentially explosive situation is denying any and all relations with the culprit. Set a meeting place outside to meet up later, and avoid all eye contact. Similarly, monitor yourself. This isn’t getting drunk at some crappy dive bar- it’s an serious artistic environment where the last thing you want to do is be sloppy and careless.
- Eat dinner first. Food is hard to find, and when you do, there will surely not be enough for a substantial meal. Besides, you’re about to do some heavy drinking. A semi-full stomach will give you the stamina to keep going from 6p to 8p without stopping.
- Don’t be afraid to mingle with other guests. If you feel comfortable, introduce yourself to the artist or the gallery owner. This may be easier said than done, as the opening night of the show is the biggest one of the week and everyone is trying to either make a sale or talk to the press. However, some more informal galleries encourage the communication between the audience of guests and the artists themselves. Just don’t be the one drunkenly rambling about the colors or the shapes.
- Don’t get intimidated. Just because you don’t have your Masters in Fine Arts doesn’t mean you won’t understand what’s happening. If you plan your evening right, you’ll get to view a variety of pieces in different mediums, styles, and formats. Art is all about opinions and different points of view, so don’t get nervous if there’s something you just don’t “get”.
- Leave your portfolio at home. If you happen to be an aspiring artist, tonight is the night to focus on the featured artist, not you. Get the gallery’s information and business card, and follow up with an introductory email the next day. Do not, under any circumstances, try to show your work at another artist’s opening. Most gallery selections are done through a juried process, anyway.
- Plan your viewing strategy. Most bars are located in the back of the gallery- just keep your eyes peeled for the pretty college-aged girls in black standing at the card table with all the wine. Make your selection, do a lap around the gallery while admiring (and chugging), stop for a final drink, and beat it to the next gallery as soon as possible.
- Remember where you are. I.E., this is not New Orleans. You cannot bring your cups and bottles out on the street and drink en route to the next show. You will get caught and yes, it will be embarrassing.
- No haggling. If you’re not actually a Bitch on a Budget, but rather a Bitch with some Benjamins who notices a piece that speaks to her, do not try to make an offer on the piece. Neither the gallery owner, nor the gallery staff, is interested in playing Let’s Make a Deal. Most pieces will be priced accordingly, and if you’re not willing to pay the full price, someone else will. Artists don’t generally inflate their prices, they simply go with the current market.
- When it’s over, it’s over. Most gallery openings end up 8p, and the liquor starts running dry in the half hour period before then. No matter how long you stick around, they will not open up another create of wine, nor will they bring out the “secret” snacks. The art gallery scene is not a late-night one, so make other plans.
Check out our favorite site for gallery openings, ArtCat, and start planning your ideal evening of art, culture, and free booze! If you’re a master art-gallery-hopper, feel free to offer up advice to the newbies by commenting below, dropping us an email, or Tweeting us @bbonabudget.