Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ten Things in the Gallery That I Dislike
(in no particular order)

Yes, I'm in a grumpy mood again. (Stupid allergies...stupider allergy medicine.) Anyway, in lieu of a post that would eat up the few available brain cells not involved in all this sneezing, here are a few pet peeves:

Ten Things in the Gallery That I Dislike

  1. People who walk through the gallery just to get to the other side, especially ones with large packages or (yes, it happened) a shopping cart of stuff (what about the name on the door suggests this is your own personal thoroughfare, eh?).
  2. People who pocket the pen from the sign-in book.
  3. People who take up an entire page to draw their own artwork in the sign-in book (unless it's good, which it seldom is).
  4. People who lecture their children for touching the artwork and then let them do it again when I don't say anything (my silence is respect for your position, not an indication that the artwork needs sticky finger prints all over it).
  5. People at openings who treat the bar like it's their own personal liquor cabinet. If the bartender doesn't get to you right away, don't help yourself...this isn't your fraternity house.
  6. Vendor sales people who get huffy that my schedule isn't convenient for them (don't solicit my business then). I've had one vendor cancel a meeting at the last minute and then huff and puff when I said their prefered choice for a reschdule wasn't going to work.
  7. Postage that comes back as undeliverable when I know the address is good and the recipient hasn't moved. Oh, and (not in the gallery, but related) the psychopathic teller at the local post office. Would someone up his meds and fast, please?
  8. The time alloted to disarm the alarm before it goes off. I told the technician I was disorganized in the morning, but he brushed my concerns aside (imagine heavy Eastern European accent): "Hnuh, it's small space. Enough time."
  9. People's reluctance to wear name tags. There's this moment of panic when someone walks into the gallery and I know I should know them, but I can't recall their name. I've gotten very good at eliciting their name if someone else is with me, but if I'm on my own, I miss the first five minutes of what they're saying because I'm ransacking my memory banks for some clue. This hurts my brain.
  10. Not being able to see who's entered the gallery from the desk. I think video cameras are a bit creepy, actually, but not as tacky as one of those bubble mirrors. Yes, this can be resolved with a bit of reorganizing, which we'll do over the summer, but right now it's driving me nuts.

Anyway, that's my list...feel free to add your own pet peeves (and they don't have to be about our gallery, either).

On this topic, don't miss Paige West's awesome post here.

45 Comments:

Anonymous David said...

People who pocket the pen from the sign-in book. People's reluctance to wear name tags.

Since people are taking the pens anyway, you might want to use that to your advantage. Leave a bunch of nametags and pens at the front entrance, with a sign saying the pens are free to people who use them to fill out and wear a tag. And of course both the tags and the pens would have that cool Plus Ultra logo. Who knows, before long collectors could be venturing further west than they'd ever dared, just to get their Plus Ultra bling.

5/18/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

If the bartender doesn't get to you right away, don't help yourself...this isn't your fraternity house.

I'm afraid I have to apologize for this. But I have a good excuse: It was pretty clear that Bambino wasn't your typical gallery opening indentured servant and when he wasn't near the table I thought to grab some tonic water without bothering him. I was just trying to be nice. He caught me, though.

Some days I just do my best to get through life without anyone's noticing me.

5/18/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

it wasn't you Chris...friends of the gallery are exempt...it's the people I don't know who annoy me.

5/18/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous carol es said...

do i have to wear a name tag if i bring my own pen?

5/18/2006 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger The Artist Extraordinaire said...

I used to sit desk at a gallery. My two favorite horror stories are:

1.) The old lady who grabbed a sculpture of a stomach made of glass off the pedistal by the esophogus and waved it in the air at me. "What's this made out of!?" she asked.

2.) The woman who came in to use the bench in front of a video projection to breast feed her kid. And then change its diaper. And the dad who joined them to stand with his arms folded and look severe as he was "protecting the nest"

Needless to say, galleries don't like it if you do these things.

5/18/2006 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

it wasn't you Chris...friends of the gallery are exempt...

I'm a Friend of the Gallery? Do I get a special name tag for that?

5/18/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"What's this made out of!?" she asked.

The only response to that being, of course:

"Cancer-causing crystals. Why?"

5/18/2006 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I guess we're so used to hearing the "My kid could do this" comment that it scarcely makes the list anymore.

5/18/2006 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I guess we're so used to hearing the "My kid could do this" comment that it scarcely makes the list anymore.

I know, and what's really annoying is that it's probably true. :)

5/18/2006 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Lenny said...

The guy who (while looking at black and white photos of Scottish landscapes) said: "I didn't know everything in Scotland was black and white"

5/18/2006 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous jen d said...

As an artist mom of someone who was a breastfeeding baby not too long ago, I have to stand up for that mom who used the bench in the gallery for breastfeeding & diapering. I never did anything resembling this myself and I don't think it's behavior to aspire to, but no one would do it unless they were desperate and their baby was hungry and miserable and they were far from anywhere more private or appropriate. At least the space was presumably dark!

Gallerists out there, if an art-going mom in this position asks to use your restroom, do you let her?

Some sympathy for parents of small kids who are not actually wreaking havoc would be welcome. (Ones who are wreaking havoc as described in Ed's post deserve way less sympathy.) Otherwise we are basically telling moms they have to stay within 5 blocks of home for the first year of their child's life, if not longer!

This has been an art mom rant. Thank you for listening.

5/18/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous eva said...

The wine thing. Not only please don't help yourself, but don't get all fussy about what you are served.
I used to have more variation and care in that department. Then people were being specific like "I want the Pinot Gris not the Chardonnay etc."
Now the choice is gone and I tell them about the bar next door if the conversation continues...

5/18/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the rant Jen. It's important to remember how tough it is for parents...and we do love kids at Plus Ultra (in fact something about joining the gallery seems to facilitate parenthood it seems)...but I'm not so sure about using the center of the gallery for anything personal actually (then again, our bathroom is always available). It's ultimately unfair to other viewers and most definitely unfair to the artist. What if that one important critic or collector who came across the naked baby felt it an invasion of the mother's privacy to stay and hence left the gallery? I know you're not advocating that, but I did want to flesh out a bit why that one instance was not simply a matter between the mother and the gallery staff.

5/18/2006 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Maybe the breastfeeding was performance art.

5/18/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

...something about joining the gallery seems to facilitate parenthood it seems...

Wow! Those must be some openings.

5/18/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Dennis Christie said...

Although our bathroom here is not made available to the public we do occasionally yet people use it if they appear hygenic or are friends of friends. On more than one occasion there have been cases of explosive diarrhea or haywire urination that the people have NOT cleaned up! Hence KennyT's standard out: "We have no water today."

5/18/2006 03:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My latest blog installment deals with related issues (http://ericgelber.livejournal.com). Thanks for sharing your well thought out, thought provoking, daily insights.

Eric Gelber

5/18/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

If you change a baby's diaper in the middle of an art gallery, you should know you are being deeply disrespectful to other gallery-goers, to the gallerist and to the artist. You should be pointed at, verbally humiliated, and made to cry.

5/18/2006 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous jen d said...

Ed, your point is well taken and that scenario would suck, but feeding a baby isn't really a choice like any other personal use of the gallery would be. US law is that a woman may breastfeed anywhere she may otherwise legally be, and restaurant owners who've asked women to leave because it was making other diners uncomfortable have been successfully sued. American culture and health could benefit from a more open attitude about it, since many American moms switch to formula out of discomfort with public breastfeeding (and those babies have to eat OFTEN!) It is common to see women breastfeeding in European museums and no one appears to even notice.

But again, to emphasize, I'm not saying it's fabulous gallery etiquette, just that it's more deserving of sympathy than scorn.

And even I have to admit that the diapering crosses a separate big line. I would hope that any gallerist would allow a mom and baby to use their bathroom for this purpose.

5/18/2006 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Sorry I wasn't more clear Jen. I'm not at all bothered by the breastfeeding. I would defend any mother's right to feed her baby when the baby needs feeding. I thought that a naked baby being rediapered might strike some other viewers as something they should give the mother space to do, though.

I do think a restaurant, where eating is the expected and paid for activity, is different from a gallery, too though. We generally frown on people bringing in outside food. ;-)

5/18/2006 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Name tags: given the current state of our country, maybe we should all be wearing dogtags with our names really large on them.

I too have the problem of staring at someone whose name I know I know but am totally unable to remember until ten minutes later.

I don't mind self serving at openings as much as I mind the folks who obviously only come to openings to drink themselves silly. Might not happen as much in NYC but in LA I've seen some heavy duty drinking.

5/18/2006 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Bert Green said...

My peeve is people who come into my gallery and immediately walk right behind the counter into our back room. Without asking, or even looking at the show. Shocking.

5/18/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

Postage that comes back as undeliverable when I know the address is good and the recipient hasn't moved. Oh, and (not in the gallery, but related) the psychopathic teller at the local post office.

What is it with the postal service these days? My mail carrier randomly decided that I must have moved, leaving no forwarding address, and started returning most of my mail, except that he cleverly delivered some of it, so that I wouldn't notice what was happening until a month had passed and my insurance agent called me up to ask why my bill had been returned. When I went to the post office to confront him about it, he became rude and abusive. Protests to the manager and the US Postal Service website were utterly ineffective.

Sorry for the rant, but I feel your pain.

5/18/2006 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous carol es said...

hi bert!

bert has a fantastic gallery here in la by the way. just don't walk into the back room without looking at the show first ;)

...when i had a gallery (thank the lord i don't anymore) there was a street guy who came in once and tried to take a nap on a piece of art (which looked like a bed) but regardless, it still was irritating! (yet kinda funny.)

5/18/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger chris moss said...

I like you when you're grumpy.

5/19/2006 01:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If an art dealer chooses to situate his or her gallery in a neighborhood that attracts the broadest profile of visitors, then he or she is indicating that tolerance is the order of the day.

Solutions for reducing the rate of incidence of "bad behavior" include operating by appointment only, moving to an isolated district frequented by individuals who are known for their ettiquette, posting a code of conduct at the gallery entrance that may or may not be guarded by a plainsclothed or uniformed monitor, and avoiding contact with the public by locking oneself in the office and leaving it to one's staff to enjoy the benefits of being a part of the human race.

Some of the most successful and best respected owners and operators of art galleries and othe public commercial enterprises say the same thing about people who choose to visit their spaces: they are sincerely grateful that someone has chosen to take his or her valuable time to visit their venue over someone else's venue.

5/19/2006 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anonymous,

That's sweet Anonymous, really it is, but I can only imagine you've never been in the situation of being responsible for the context and safety of artwork that someone has poured their heart and soul into, while also dealing with the wide range of behavior possible from the general public. Among the behaviors we've seen from people who one would assume are concerned about a reciprocal amount of respect (if they're entitled to respect, why isn't the gallery?) are putting their drinks on an art work, licking the artwork, swinging their backpacks up against the artwork, letting their children crawl beneath and then behind the artwork, spilling their drink on the office computer, stealing a wide range of things from the office including artwork, etc.

Respect is a two-way street. I fully defend any gallery's measures to protect the context and artwork that prevent such disrespectful behaviors and make no apologies.

5/19/2006 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Edward, your concerns seem reasonable enough to me. Please just don't go as far as that other gallery in your neighborhood, you know the one, that had 3 or 4 uniformed guards standing around the exhibition last time I visited. That seemed downright silly.

5/19/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

one of those guards snapped at Bambino, for which I mocked him ruthlessly, so I can't in good faith ever see myself hiring them...besides, I'm guard-dog enough myself...having gotten up in the faces of the meanest looking locals who dared to touch the art in our old space, I've discovered that against common sense, something very paternal kicks in with me in such situations.

5/19/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger deli-slicer said...

Ed,
That "hello" sticker looks like something I would draw. I love it. I would never, however, draw it in a guest book for a show.

I think your list is very funny and you have a right to be miffed. I am glad you did not add "People who eat all the cookies that I offered them" 'cause that would be me 3 weeks ago, when you were so kind to feed my sugar low.

5/19/2006 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Mike @ MAO said...

Hey Ed..did I ever show you my collection of Gallery Pens??

It's my passive aggressive way of getting even with all those evil Gallerinas!!

;-)

5/19/2006 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

LOL...poor Gallerinas...hey, wait...they don't buy the pens!

The pen that lastest longest in our space was a really hideous one that read "Stolen from Plus Ultra Gallery." Something so simple, but effective.

5/19/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's one matter for a gallerist to have challenging experiences. It's another for a gallerist to be discreet and gracious.

There are many fine arts venues where all sorts of mishaps and transgressions have taken place. Few operators of such venues have openly broadcast that these incidents had taken place. They may have discreetly discussed such matters with other venue operators or confidentially sent reports of such conduct to art journalists, even when they have access to public platforms of communication.

It's just a question of choosing to acknowledge that all gallery and museum visitors are special and worthy of being appreciated.

It's also a matter for a gallerist to portray the identification of a dilemma as a dignified search for a solution to improving the gallery experience for all involved.

On another matter, it took a long time for gallery operators to realize that visitors who wear parkas, jeans, and jogging shoes might be mega-collectors. Nowadays, it's somewhat rare to see a collector wearing upscale outfits. The question that one might pose is, "How long will it take gallerist-bloggersto realize that commentators calling for issues to be approached with greater care and consideration might be art administrators who've worked in and/or owned/directed galleries and/or museums for more than 20 years?

5/19/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anonymous,

That you're part of the establishment was clearly suggested in your first comment. What wasn't clear was why you're not able to enjoy a lighthearted letting off of steam in the context it was offered. I'd have hoped that most readers would have recognized the goal of this post to be humor, not a public-hating diatribe worthy of lectures about grace or discretion. I'll stand our record for being welcoming against anyone's, thank you.

Moreover, the gentility you demand might still flourish in some galleries, but for one literally born out of a garage on a tough street in Brooklyn, it would be the lamest sort of posing to put on airs like that here. We welcome everyone, but we expect the same respect from eveyone in return ... it's a Brooklyn thing (and besides, it's not like we've named any names here, so your call for discretion is a bit off the mark).

Finally, did you miss the whole "gossip" part of the header?

5/19/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

right on edw! anon, lighten up dude or dudette!

5/19/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

"Pet peeves" are not diatribes, polemics or vitriol. They are a statemenet of life's many little irritants.

The venting to prevent violence.

So, yes, lighten up, Anonymous.

5/19/2006 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Cooney said...

I think I know that post man.

I personally enjoy it when people at openings lean against the white walls with one foot propped beneath their ass so their filthy shoe dirt gets all over the my walls! The next morning is great fun with a paintbrush.

About the bar, I serve water and keep a few good bottles of wine for me, the artist and a maybe a client if they actually show up for an opening.

5/19/2006 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I think anon got a nose full of that dirty diaper. Geez, do I ever come off like that? I enjoy a good lecturing, but do try to keep a sense of humor.

now where did that stick go, it was sitting on that chair over there . . .

5/19/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Nancy Baker, aka Rebel Belle said...

I used to have a studio in an artists community where all the studios were very public and visitors were encouraged. This was an illuminating experience. I'll never forget the time a mother was in my space with her seven year old who was behaving badly. The mother turned my studio into a "time out" punishment by making the kid sit on my work stool. I was so mad I threw them both out. Artist's studios and galleries are NOT the place to take your kid if they are bored. I am a mother, and believe me, there's no excuse for this kind of behavior. Imagine what the guards would do in MOMA if a mother tried to change her kids diapers on the museum floor!

5/19/2006 08:40:00 PM  
Anonymous eva said...

You are so right about mutual respect.

And when it comes time to look after someone who has walked into your office (or wherever beyond the exhibition) without invitation, you do your best to be gracious but also concerned.

On the inaugural reception for our gallery, while I was pouring wine and giving it away, someone stole my cellphone. It was the only phone we had for that gallery at the time.

So when I follow people who are going into places beyond the exhibition, I don't mean to be rude .... but I don't see a lot of options there.

5/20/2006 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bert Green said...

I am glad to hear Daniel Cooney say that he serves only water in the gallery, I do the same. I realized a while back that the people who were freely drinking were not buying, and those who were buying were not drinking. Likewise, I also keep a few good bottles of wine in the back for the artists and collectors.

5/21/2006 02:37:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I try really hard not to eat or drink anything at any gallery opening. As the big fat guy, I'd rather not be seen pigging out on the mini-pretzels. And I don't drink alcohol anyway. But sometimes I have to have some water or tonic water or club soda or something, especially if it's warm out and the air conditioning hasn't been started up yet.

New York City is at its most beautiful outdoors in spring and fall. But those seasons are the worst for being inside, because the climate control of most buildings isn't adjusted yet.

5/21/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My suggestion for the gallery is unwrap the column. Let's see it round and naked!

5/21/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger whl said...

people who bring in original works of art to show you!

2/16/2007 03:31:00 PM  
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