Hi! Jonathan here. This time I’m going to give you some advice on going to gallery openings in New York City! The sheer abundance of galleries in New York City can be intimidating to think about, but gallery hopping is a fun way to see new, upcoming contemporary art as well as historical works and retrospectives.
First thing you want to do is find out which galleries have openings in the city! Websites like artcritical.com and artcards.cc have pages that list openings by date and by neighborhood. Start a list of all the shows that sound interesting or have artists or subject matter that you’re interested in. Check your newspapers, especially the art sections that comes in the weekend edition of most papers, and read reviews of upcoming shows to get a better grasp of what the show might be like. Or better yet, google reviews of the show if you don’t have access to a newspaper subscription.
Once you make your list, it’s time to start crossing some off. Yes, I know, there’s so many cool things to see but there’s no way you can see every opening in the city. Most openings on a single night are only open for a two hour window, from 6 – 8 pm and depending on which shows you want to see, the galleries could be on opposite ends of the city. Think about which shows you really want to see and whether you’d want to see several galleries that are close together, or a few that are far apart. Take travel time into account. Be realistic about the time that you have. Sometimes it’s good to see only one show.
Once you have your list finalized, it’s helpful to make a map of the places you’re going to see and plan your route! Here’s a map I made of galleries I like to visit in the Lower East Side.
Oh! Another thing: Invite your friends and make it an outing! Art is made better with friends.
Now that you’re all set to go walking, here are some general etiquette guidelines for being at an opening.
It will be crowded. Something to keep in mind is that gallery openings are less about the art itself and are more a social gathering of artists and friends of the artist. You’ll probably have to save your intimate encounters with the artwork for another day. Try and circulate around the gallery space so you can let others see the work as well.
If you’re feeling adventurous, mingle with the other guests! Tell the artist you like their work! Everyone loves getting compliments. If you keep going, eventually you might see the same people that you mingled with before! Just keep in mind general conversation etiquette. For artists, openings are a great way to briefly meet and catch up with their contemporaries. Random strangers are less of a priority. Don’t expect them to make much time for you, especially if you’re not planning on buying any of the work.
Get refreshments! If you haven’t eaten dinner yet and were planning on seeing art on an empty stomach, worry not! Many openings have an open bar and assortments of crackers, cheeses, and seasonal fruit platters. Please drink responsibly and don’t eat too much, especially if you have to walk to more galleries you want to see. Also be careful waving drinks and snacks around the art. It’s upsetting to find out you have to pay the $14,000 insurance for that one painting you spilled chardonnay on.
Written by Jonathan Yee