Saturday, April 10, 2010

Picking On Posers

Art Tourist
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Art exhibit openings remind me of going to church—to paraphrase the words of Holden Caulfield (the main character of Catcher in the Rye), “…many of its attendees are a bunch of phonies.” And like many church-goers, I attend because there is a certain guilt I take on when I consider not attending. As a fellow artist myself (a questionable declaration), this guilt is rooted in that my non-attendance could be interpreted as not supporting the artist and, in general, the arts. Fortunately, any guilt experienced is not unbearable, but certainly aggravating.

I just attended an exhibit opening last night and walked away with the same disdain I had the last time I attended one—thinking to myself that I’ll never attend another.

Yet, as I sit here and think about it, attending an art exhibit opening is something akin to attending a high school football game—something I can definitely relate to and enjoy. Like a football game, many people attending an art exhibit opening could care less about the art that is on the walls; they are simply there to socialize and discuss anything with the various individuals they seldom see in attendance. Further, there are others who surely attend for the sole purpose of “being seen.” So, why does the insincere motives of an “art-going” crowd get under my skin unlike the insincere motives of the “football-going” crowd?

Added to my consternation for such settings, when I queried a colleague (also an artist) about his thoughts on exhibit openings last night, he concurred with me, but followed up with a reference to the food and drink provided in saying, “Well, this is a pretty good spread here.”

I will confess that in my attendance last night, I did get to visit with a few individuals that I haven’t seen in a spell, but nothing prevents me from calling them up and inviting them to join me over a cup of coffee either. Now that I think about it, attending an art exhibit opening is a material-world version of signing on to Facebook—nothing more than a backdrop for humdrum socializing.

As an aspiring artist myself, the question of whether or not to attend an art exhibit opening is a true conundrum. If given an “opening” for my own exhibit, I’d just assume not have one, but that’s pretty anti-social. Which (as far as I’m concerned) is OK, because being anti-social has nothing to do with an art exhibit.

Perhaps I would feel better about attending art exhibits (whether my own or those of others) if I knew for certain that the conversations by those attending were limited to topics of the exhibited artwork or art in general.

My solution from here on: stop attending art exhibit openings, but visit the exhibits during regular viewing hours while attempting to leave a fairly intelligent or thought-provoking comment in the guest book. Hopefully the artist will appreciate this approach more than me swooping down on the complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine while participating in the listless conversations in the presence of their works.