Gallery Etiquette and the Free World - Spear's Magazine

Gallery Etiquette and the Free World

I recently visited a modest but well-known art gallery, home to a number of masterpieces. But my transport of wonder was shattered by fellow patrons.

I recently visited a modest but well-known art gallery, home to a number of masterpieces. But my transport of wonder was shattered by fellow patrons.

Just behind me, a well-dressed middle-aged woman had entered the room with her companion, a besuited older man, loudly commenting on the lack of genitalia depicted in the paintings. Perhaps there is a place for such jokes, but here, among the couched intimacy of an artist’s rendered dreams, the contrast cut. She laughed and was hushed by her partner, a self-appointed minder unable to prevent further vulgarities spluttering out between infantile giggles.

I was not angry at merely the foul talk but the fact that they were clearly wealthy, educated and (reasonably) intelligent. They had a privileged life they had mistaken for licence, they were wanton and could have walked from the pages of a Fitzgerald novel.

Let the art do the foul talking

Debrett’s provides instruction on gallery etiquette that, while useful as codification, is nothing a rational person wouldn’t do naturally. In many ways social convention is much more valuable than law. That was my real gripe: these people knew what they should do, indeed what was right, but chose not to adhere, as if the need to respect others did not apply to them.

Surely it is not unwonted deference to respect the sanctuary an art gallery affords us and the sincere effort of the artist? In a world of quarter-of-a-million-pound parking spaces, reverence for art is ever-more vivid.

These individuals should have known better. They were lazy and deemed themselves unhindered by appreciation, mistaking it for trite convention. Nothing is sacred but disinterested dismissal serves only to heighten art’s pedestal without proper scrutiny.

 

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