For those of you who are not familiar with the etiquette of an art reception here are a few tips.
There will typically be an artist statement close to the entrance. There are two ways to use this to your advantage.
You can either read it first or you can take a quick look at the work to come up with some thoughts and questions of your own. If you look at the statement first it will give you an idea about the work. It may also give you some terms to use when the person next to you asks you what you think about the work. If you read it at the end you will have the freedom to come up with your own thoughts about the work.
Your thoughts are just as valid about the work as any one elses, including mine...That being said
Don’t Try to Use Fancy Language
When someone asks you about the work, you don’t need to use fancy language to talk about the your opinions. In fact, please don’t. However, being prepared to use a few basic terms may be wise. Color, shape, contrast, line and value (darks and lights) are all great words to keep in mind. They can help you answer questions such as why you like or don’t like the work.
Many art students spend their first semester just learning about basic terms in the context of overall composition and concept, so don’t feel too bad if you are still not sure how to talk about other people’s artwork.
The terms above are also great for asking questions and engaging the artist. In addition to the basic terms you can always ask the standard Who, What, When, Where, and Why. But don’t forget to consult the artist statement before asking too many questions.
I have often been asked what people should wear to an art reception and this is a tricky question. In Laramie, dressing up is wearing jeans with your Ugg boots instead of Victoria Secret sweats. That being said you shouldn't feel bad in whatever clothes you wore al day (at least not at my shows), but you should feel free to dress up a bit as well.
The artist and special guests may dress up a bit more (or may dress for the theme of the show). Artists are eccentric (and sometimes have crazy friends) which means the focus will probably not be on you regardless of what you are wearing.
How do you eat food without looking like the person who is just at an event for a free meal and getting out of doing dishes?
First of all, if you follow the tips listed above you will be better off than most people. Also, don’t be the person who just goes for the food. Check out these reasons to go to the reception if you are unconvinced. And finally, there is nothing wrong with grabbing food before (after or in the middle of) looking at the work. You can certainly walk around the space with food and a drink.
Look But Don't Touch
Which brings me to the final rule. Do not touch the work. Sometimes there are exceptions but if you are unsure don’t touch. Be thoughtful before touching. Does the artist want me to interact with the work or is it displayed in a way that interaction is not intended, helpful or needed. Furthermore, hanging work rarely has a need to be touched.
What tips did I miss? Comment below with questions or advice.