15 Art World Stereotypes

Jon went to an art exhibition and hated it, so he just looked at all the funny people there instead.

I went to an art show opening recently; I have to be honest, the artwork wasn’t really doing it for me. Instead, I like to people-watch, and ended up spending my evening compiling a list a list of the stereotypical people you’re guaranteed to see – and probably want to avoid – at an exhibition opening:

1. The artist

Can be found in a variety of emotional states ranging from utter indifference to hysterical wreck. Sometimes – when they get big – they don’t even bother to turn up to their own show, making them seem super mysterious, or maybe just arrogant.

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2. The curator

This is the important person who decides where the art goes in the room (think of them as a master of Feng Shui). The art exhibition is as much their baby as it is the people who have been chosen to go in it, therefore they may be found in a similar state of panic and hysteria as the artists.

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3. The artist’s friends

Usually they have absolutely no interest in being there, but have become experienced in the art of bluffing, flattery and patience having been forced to come to their friend’s shows since the inception of their friendship.

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4. The local art world glitterati

Go to a few openings in the same area and you’ll start to recognize them. They are the creatures that seem to crawl from beneath various rocks to see fresh art and then disappear back into depths until the next exhibition.

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5. The grander art world

If the artist is fortunate enough to have some friends in high places then suddenly the opening becomes the fancier affair it was always trying to be, with influential people telling awful jokes that everyone laughs at.

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6. The person who has absolutely no idea what they’re doing there.

Look for confusion and sometimes terror.

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7. The person who only came for the free drinks

(Sometimes, you just have to be this person.)

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8. The person who looks at the work giving off the impression that they actually understand it.

Authenticity is key; the occasional head nod, shrewd smile and chin stroke – when subtly executed – works well here.

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9. The person who looks at the art open-mouthed in disgust.

Art isn’t necessarily just a pretty painting anymore; it’s unpredictable and sometimes disgusting. This person could be you.

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10. The person who stands looking at the work and genuinely knows what it’s about.

I hate that person.

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11. The people who take everything super seriously.

You’ll find them buried in whatever nonsensical blurb has been handed out describing the exhibition, desperately trying to make it obvious how seriously they are thinking about the art. Because they are serious people. With serious interests.

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12. The single person wearing a polo neck jumper.

This isn’t even a stereotype; there is always someone in a polo neck.

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13. The person wearing charity shop clothes to avoid looking like they have a lot of money, and probably has some kind of edgy haircut.

Image is important people, you don’t want to give the impression you could buy everything and everyone in the room.

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14. Networking fanatics leering around looking for their next victim.

They don’t care about the art; they just want to expand their LinkedIn connections.

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15. Gallery assistants.

The only people in between you and the art, they bear the brunt of the questions, criticism and it’s their job to make you stop touching the art no matter how attractive it is. Pity them.

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Got any more to add? Tweet me at @RifeMag