People watching can be almost as much fun as the art itself
This isn’t new stuff
Actually, I wrote this following the 2012 Raymond James Stutz Artists Open House. I was single at the time and was able to walk through the building casually, taking in all the sights and sounds and observing what was going on. Unfortunately, time and schedules do not allow us to attend again this year. Honestly, we tried taking the kids a couple of years ago and that didn’t work so well. I’m not convinced that either of them is ready for us to try again. I’m curious to see if any of my observations have changed any, though. Perhaps next year. Worth noting: tickets are still only $12. If you can, you should go.
The original article
People who attend art shows such as this one are entertaining to watch and it occurred to me last night that there are definite groupings and categorizations to be made. So, in the interest of furthering the science of sociology and the Arts, I am presenting for your information my GUIDE TO ART SHOW GUESTS. Place tongue firmly in cheek before proceeding.
No, not the ones who are actually showing their work, but those, such as myself, who visit to see other artists and explore their work. The artist moves methodically from gallery to gallery, carefully studying the work, and engaging the artist when they have questions or are particularly moved by a piece. For the most part, they tend to be encouraging of each other, though there are those who are jealous and simply looking to steal the ideas of those more talented. Artists dress casually, because that’s really all they can afford, and more often than not tend to wander through the studios alone, consuming copious amounts of wine. For the artist, a show such as this one is a chance to immerse oneself in creativity, to be inspired, and to be challenged. The free food doesn’t hurt, either.
THE ART STUDENT
Like the artist, the art student comes to see other artists and explore their work, but their frame of reference is quite different. Art students are looking for what they can get from the experience. They want to know how these artists make a living, or at least manage to afford such illustrious and fashionable space (trust me, kids, these studios look entirely different every other day of the year). Students, though, tend to not travel alone. Their insecurities are born out by the fact they travel in pairs or small groups. They discuss the works with each other, rather than approaching the artists directly. They are full of questions but are, generally, afraid to ask. When they do muster up the courage to ask an artist a question, it is often vague and slightly naive, such as, “How do you find the time to do this much work?” and “Where do you buy your paint?” The most insecure, and likely lacking, of students, can be overheard speaking disparagingly of the artists and their work. Karma will catch up with them soon enough.
THE ARTIST’S SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER
These poor souls don’t really want to be here, but they don’t dare miss the event. To not show up would be horribly unsupportive of them. So, they sit there, managing to issue a weak smile, often working the booze table, secretly wishing they could just down a couple of bottles of wine for themselves. They can’t wait to get out of there and relax at home, with their shoes off, sipping on the leftover wine. They do love their spouse/significant other, but these events are both marginalizing and exhausting for them.
THE ART BUYER/COLLECTOR
This is one rare bird, but that makes them easy to spot! These people not only have money, they are well versed in the value of art and how to use it as an investment. Some come to buy, but most use shows like this as an opportunity to check up on artists they’ve been tracking. You’ll see them with lists in hand, carefully plotting their trek from one specific studio to the other. They’ll converse with artists from whom they’ve bought before, and make copious notes about work they like before slipping off. They tend to dress casually, but in that high-end, well-polished way that distinguishes them as someone who has money and isn’t afraid to spend it. They don’t linger. Once they’ve seen what they want, they disappear.
THE INTERIOR DESIGNER
Ah, the lovely designers! Every artist loves to see one walk into their studio, and will not hesitate to engage them and show them the new work they have one display. These are the pretty birds, well-coiffed, manicured, styled, shod, and fully accessorized, but not in an overstated way. They actually make money with art, perhaps more than the artists themselves. Quick with a smile, and unendingly personable, designers know that shows like this are a mix of both potential clients and suppliers, a delightful networking opportunity from which they might profit. Always ready with a business card in hand, they talk encouragingly to anyone, even when they’re thinking that they wouldn’t hang this artwork in a dungeon. Everyone thinks the designer is their friend, but there’s a reason they never miss a wine table.
THE ART ENTHUSIAST
These dear people love art. Okay, they can’t really afford to buy it very often, but they do enjoy looking at it and they especially enjoy the opportunity to talk to the artists … endlessly … about how great the art is and how much they love it and how that piece would look perfect in their house, but they just can’t afford it right now. They are here for the experience, to enjoy just being around art. They move joyously from gallery to gallery, loving everything they see.
THE ART ENTHUSIAST’S SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER
They don’t especially share their spouse’s excitement for art. In fact, they really don’t care what’s on the wall. As long as the spouse is happy, life hums along peacefully and that’s really all they want. Peace. And alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. “Hey look, dear, that abstract reminds me of your Aunt Ginny’s face …”
They just love art … once they’ve had a few glasses of wine. “You are the best artist in the building,” they say repeatedly, with one arm wrapped around the artist, and the other one reaching for another plastic cup of wine. These dear souls rarely make it past the third floor, regardless of where they start. With so many studios offering both red and white wine, they feel obligated to try one of each, just to be fair to everyone. By the time they’re half-way through the third floor, their liver is screaming for mercy. They plop the nearest bench and wonder aloud exactly which way the exit might be. Fortunately, this is not their first such experience and they have the number of their preferred cab service on speed dial … if you’ll help them place the call.
THE DOTING PARENT
Some might question whether an art event scheduled for the evening and dominated by wine is an appropriate venue for children. These parents don’t ask that question. Neither did they actually ask their child(ren) whether they wanted to attend. This is art and therefore it must be good for them; it will help them grow into more well-rounded and socially capable people who just might actually visit a nursing home before placing their parents in it. It is worth noting, however, that the Doting Parent comes in two varieties: parents of male children versus parents of female children. The difference is so obvious as to make one feel sorry for the young child. Parents of female children take them to every studio. All of them. In order. They introduce their daughters to the artists and can be heard saying things such as, “Daria here just loves to draw. Do you think we should get her painting lessons?” Parents of male children tend to do the same UNTIL they wander into a studio that contains nude figure work. Then, just as the youth starts to think that art might actually be cool, dear parent quickly guides them out the door and the next, hopefully abstract, gallery.
Mom said this would be cool. Mom said this would be fun. Mom sure is drinking a lot of those wine samples. Why doesn’t anyone have soda? Oh look, the lady in that picture is NEKKID! That artist person smells funny. Dad promised to buy me the new version of Assassin’s Creed if I don’t fuss. Are we done yet?
THE GIRLS NIGHT OUT GANG
It’s Friday, tickets are only $12, and their husbands didn’t want to come anyway. This group of 3-7 friends, usually female but occasionally gay males, wanders from studio to studio in search of the most generous wine offerings, which they consume in a single gulp. “Gladys, that would look so good over your couch.” “Yes, it matches Stanley’s (her husband) color quite well, don’t you think?” They laugh. A lot. Continuously. They take pictures with the artist with their cell phones. They won’t remember tomorrow anything they saw, but they’re having a good time.
They’re not really interested in art, they just needed someplace different to go after being kicked out of the laundromat for having sex on the washing machines. Their clothes seem to be a bit damp. And clingy.
THE ARTIST’S MODEL
She’s young. She’s pretty. She lingers beside the artist’s rendition of her beautiful body hoping someone will notice. Someone. Anyone. Please? “Oh, HI MOM! WHAT ARE YOU AND DAD DOING HERE? Have you met the artist across the hall? You’ll love her! Let me introduce you …”
They’re being paid $8.25 an hour to wander around and discourage theft. They know, of course, that no one’s actually going to steal anything. This is art, not JayZ memorabilia. At least its easy money. They plan on buying the new version of Assassin’s Creed on their way home.
Those are the major groups. I’m sure each one could be subdivided, perhaps to infinity, but I think this is enough to make the point. Art shows are definitely entertaining. You should attend one soon. I’ll be watching.