I know. I know. This seems totally lame. However, I'll say it once again. I spend a great deal of blissful time walking through empty art galleries and museums. It's fantastic for me because I get lots of essay ideas free of distractions, but this is terrible for the institutions themselves. Art institutions should be full all of the time, not only when they have big shows. Anyway, I've spoken with many people - including art people - who've told me off the record that they're often afraid to even walk into a gallery. This is ridiculous and unfortunately, many galleries aren't seemingly doing much to address this issue (which is a big part of the problem). Given that, here are some tips on ... How to Visit an Art Gallery. Believe me, I've visited hundreds of galleries and I'm giving you an inside look into one of my typical visits ...
1. DRESS: This seems a bit shallow, but I do think the way you present yourself is important no matter where you go, whether you're on your lunch break or visiting a gallery on your day off. Art is visual and art people are very visual. First impressions are indeed important, although not as important as character. Having said that, dress comfortably for your visit, but you also don't want to look like a dirty slob. And for God's sake, don't wear droopy pants that sink beneath your ass. What's that all about anyway? Whatever.
2. WALK UP: Approach the gallery that you think you might like to visit. Look at it. Does it seem like a welcoming place? Do you like the outward appearance of the gallery? Do you see something enticing inside? Art galleries are about displaying profound art, but make no mistake my friend, art galleries are retail establishments and you should have no qualms about walking inside one almost the way you'd walk inside Macy's. I don't care if you cannot afford the art or not. When you walk into a gallery, you are a potential customer. It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like (just not a dirty slob).
3. GRAB YOUR FEAR: This one is so important. Art galleries and museums can be physically intimidating places, but that's part of their appeal. They're sleek and cool. So are you. Put the law of attraction into practice here. JUST GO IN. If you feel afraid, grab your fear by the throat and bring it into the gallery with you. JUST GO IN.
4. HELLO: If you're visiting a decent gallery, once you walk inside, there will be someone nearby who will say something as simple as "Hello! Welcome" or "Hi, I'm Janet. I'm here if you have any questions!" With that, you should politely say, "Thank you" and begin your visit. Having said that, on most of my gallery visits, there's been either no one to greet me at all or staffers are sitting behind their desks attending to their business. That's fine. People do have to work.
5. LOOK AND STROLL: This is the best part. Just look and stroll. Stop, look and listen to the art that you're seeing. This is like communion. Enjoy the silence of the place. Bask in the moments that you're having with the art that you're seeing. Do you like what you see? Do you hate what you see? Why do you hate it? Why do you like it? Does that painting remind you of the summers you spend at the beach with your friends and family? You're seeking a connection here with the art. If you don't have a connection, keep strolling. Having a connection with the art that you see transcends like or dislike of it. You want to learn something more about yourself by experiencing the art.
6. SIT: Some galleries have seating. By all means, sit if you choose. There have been times when I've sat on the floor of galleries to spend a little more time with the art. However, I don't do that very often. It's perfectly fine though. Just don't fall asleep on the floor.
7. ASK: If you see something that you have questions about, ASK. I've done this MANY times. This is also a good way to take the temperature of the gallery to see what the staffers are like. If they're not too busy, they should be glad to answer questions. If they seem snobbish, that's your cue (or is it "clue"?) to politely leave. I've also done this MANY times as well. That's life. We're all adults here.
8. MATERIALS: Many galleries have show materials or handouts available, free of charge. If so, take one if you wish. I love to look up artist websites online after my gallery visits. However, if you're interested in buying something from the artist whose work is on view at the gallery, DO NOT try to go behind the gallery's back and try to buy directly from the artist in question. This is not a trustworthy thing and you'll only make yourself look like an idiot. I contact artists sometimes after gallery visits for the purpose doing interviews for this site.
9. BUY: If you see something you like, ask gallery staffers about prices. Some galleries post art prices. Don't be intimidated by prices. Believe me, most gallery staffers cannot afford the art displayed, so who is kidding whom? There's NO reason for any pretense on either side of the equation.
10. KEEP GOING: This is so important. The more you visit galleries, the more you learn about yourself, what you like and what the galleries themselves focus on. This is often apparent from the outset, but you need to continue your visits until the whole process becomes like second nature. If you're an art fan, you're really not that much different from a football fan or rock concert fan. It's just a different venue. You have to go to know.
There. I just walked you through a typical gallery visit. By the way, I often visit galleries with artist friends, but I find that when I go alone, I can focus more on the art and get essay ideas. Buy hey, that's just me. Now ... go visit some art galleries and have fun. If you're afraid, go anyway.