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Thursday, December 6, 2018

What not to say at an opening


Yesterday I taught you words that will make you sound arty. Here are phrases you should avoid if you don’t want to sound like a rube.
Best Buds, by Carol L. Douglas
You can use the phrase, “that piece,” but only if it’s in the context of choosing between two or three items in the show. Never direct it at the gallerist, who is a human being with feelings, and also the person who bought the wine you’re swilling.

Piece is a loaded word; use it with care. “I’m looking for a piece of art” is about as discriminating as being on the hunt for a piece of a--.

“How much time did that take?” marks you as an art rube. Jonas Kaufmann doesn’t get paid by the note and artists don’t get paid by the brushstroke. That piece is the culmination of a lifetime’s practice. It may have taken six hours or six years. It’s not a negotiating point, sorry.
Dawn, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy the Kelpie Gallery.
“That looks just like a photograph” grieves me terribly, since I wanted it to look like a painting. When you’re at a loss for something nice to say, go with “I love the use of color!” Everyone believes they’re a colorist.

“What is it?” With modern painting, less is more. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

“That’s a nice frame.” Actually, artists say this a lot to each other. It is always followed by, “Where’d you get it?” and “How much?” But the rest of you are supposed to be interested in the art.

Bracken Fern, by Carol L. Douglas
“What’s your absolute bottom line price?” Well, it’s on this little tag right here. The gallerist might do a little something for you if you buy several pieces, but you have to take it up with him or her. And it’s usually on the order of 5-10%.

“Don’t give up the day job!” That’s not even funny, since this is my day job.

“You’ve given it your best shot.” That was from my mother after a bad show twenty years ago. If she could see me now…

“In my day, we didn’t have time for self-actualizing.” Another bon mot from my mother. Believe it or not, she was worried I’d starve to death. If she could see me now, dieting through Christmas…
Beach, by Carol L. Douglas
“Is that tie-dye?” This is something Shibori artists hear a lot. I suppose in its broadest definition it’s true—if tie-dye was done with threads and stitching and compression and incredible skill. “Tell me about your process” is going to elicit the same information and not make you look silly.

“I have a really nice painting at home, by this guy named Thomas Kinkade.” De mortuis nihil nisi bonum and all that, but that’s not a marker of good taste.

“The wine is terrible but at least it’s free.” Can’t help you there.

5 comments:

Annette said...

Good to know. I'm not an artist. But I appreciate all forms of art and I have been mortified by some of the rude comments I have heard bring said to an artist. Sometimes not to the artist but clearly loud enough, intentionally, for the artist to hear. But I speak up usually, to point out that they are being rude. I can't stand it when people insult artists and I let em have it. Thank you for sharing your insights. It's always helpful and enlightening.

Unknown said...

Hey, I happen to like Thomas Kinkade's paintings.

Carol Douglas said...

Nothing wrong with liking Kinkead, but don't confuse his giclees with fine art.

Unknown said...

Hope you follow this one up with "What not to say when you are peeking over an artist's shoulder!"
Can't tell you how many bone-headed comments I've fielded while plein air painting!
Big fan of your work as well as you writing!

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you. Excellent idea. Just yesterday I got an IG message that read, "I love your hobby!"