Awkward gallery moments and how to deal with them
When pacing a gallery you occasionally find yourself faced with awkward situations. Luckily most of these can be resolved with some very basic acting skills. In the spirit of generosity I’ve decided to share the three awkward situations I encounter most often and the methods I have for dealing with them. N.B. Obviously most of the time the art is indeed fascinating and I am in no way looking to leave abruptly or start engaging in pointless theatrics. Most of the time.
Situation One – I am not listening to your conversation
This occurs when the other gallery visitors are having fascinating and inappropriate conversations nearby which are far more interesting than the art at hand. The key for dealing with this is to have an open notebook and a pen. You look thoughtfully in the direction of the art while holding an open notebook and chewing the end of a pencil. Depending on how committed you are to the illusion you can occasionally scribble incomprehensibly in the notebook. This faked concentration allows one to eavesdrop like crazy on the bizarre/illuminating/salacious conversations going on all around. The pen in the mouth is so that you can bite down on it if overcome with the giggles.
Situation Two – I am unflappable in the face of your pricing structure
This involves not flinching when you find out how much the artwork you are currently contemplating costs. This is especially good when the gallery assistant has assumed that because – just picking an example at random – you have egg on your shirt and your shoes ceased to be waterproof a good year or so ago you will not be able to stump up the £950 he is asking for that limited edition print and makes a lemon-sucking ‘sucks to be poor like you’ face as he whispers the price. In this instance you maintain your best poker face, nod and say thanks. If you want to really go the extra mile, ask for one of his gallery business cards to write the figure down on and then leave looking satisfied. Do not leave swiftly and guiltily. Do not trip up.
Situation Three – I am not leaving because your art is boring
Every now and again you go in to a gallery and there is nothing interesting at all. You could always leave but you’ve only been there for twenty seconds and the gallery assistant is now watching you closely – how do you get out? Well. There are three ways. You could just turn around and leave [this goes against every fibre of my being]. You could pretend to have to take a phone call, leave and just not come back. Or you can pick three works at random and look at them intently for a few minutes each. This implies to the gallery assistant that you have selected each one for a reason and that your tastes are idiosyncratic but specific, while allowing you to feel that you did give the work EVERY chance to redeem itself.
Have I missed anything?