The art world can often feel like a social minefield, booby-trapped so that as soon as you start to make progress in establishing a name for yourself, you screw it up with a big-time blunder.
Here are those unofficial rules
1. Go to the openings “for the art.” ACTUALLY FREE BOOZE!
We all know that certain days of the week are designated for openings . But we all also know that “opening” is code for “free booze” and that it’s actually really difficult to see the work when the gallery or museum is packed to the gills with people. As long as you don’t fall over, break the art, that extra glass of wine will probably be forgiven.
2. Be part of an art world power couple. AKA SEX IS FUN!
The allure of being one half of an art world power couple is strong, to be sure, as is the bevy of connections and the status upgrade you get from being seen with a person who’s already well-known. But what’s not alluring is running into that person, and probably their new significant other, at what’s sure to feel like every single event for the rest of your career.
3. Make sure to be seen at the right parties. GATE CRASHING IS STUPID
While showing up at least some of the right parties can help you build a name, make sure you’re actually on the list before you march up to the door. Crashing parties is generally viewed as tacky and weird—and word eventually gets around. The exception, however, is at Art Basel in Miami Beach—the art world’s very own spring break.
4. Join in on the smack-talking. AKA SOUND LIKE AN A-HOLE
The more wealthy, famous, and successful someone is, the more it’s not only acceptable, but even encouraged to talk a little smack about them. After all, do you really think larger-than-life figures like Larry Gagosian and Damien Hirst concern themselves very much with your opinions of them? Making a well-placed wisecrack about someone in a position of unimpeachable power is often a way to ingratiate yourself with the other 99 percent. ARE YOU ALL REALLY THAT CONTROLLED BY EACH OTHER? THAT’S CALLED FUNGI
5. Be a social media whiz. Did anyone realize Prince Harry declared the selfie dead otherwise you look like an a-hole? Are you REALLY THAT BIG YOU ARGUE WITH A PRINCE? I GUESS YOU’RE NOT ON HIS LIST.
Maintaining a smart, up-to-the-minute social media presence is paramount for success in the art world
6. Drop names early and often in any conversation.
People in the art world generally respond well to name-dropping, as long as it isn’t completely gratuitous and you know what you’re talking about. But be wary, for there are really only two types of names worth dropping: really famous people, places, and things or really obscure people, places, and things. . Anything in between isn’t worth it.
7. Know who’s who. OR YOU ARE REALLY AN A-HOLE!
There’s nothing more embarrassing than sidling up to someone, casually asking if they are an artist, and then learning you’re actually standing in the middle of their opening. Or their gallery., Try to keep the fangirling to a minimum—you’re not a preteen, and they’re not Justin Bieber. Tell them how much you respect and admire their work, but remain composed and save the heart-shaped emojis for the texts you’ll inevitably send to your art-savvy friends later.
8. Befriend the society photographers. GET SELFIES AND BE REALLY STUPID ACCORDING TO PRINCE HARRY
It’s wise to make friends with a few photogs (not to mention society page editors) to ensure that the picture of you with your eyes half-open doesn’t make it onto the website of the art world’s other major event photographer, Billy Farrell Associates (BFA). Treat it like a game: give yourself +1 point for each Patrick McMullan, BFA, or Guest of a Guestpicture taken of you; -1 for each one taken from an unflattering angle; +5 for getting snapped by Bill Cunningham (see On Instagram, Bill Cunningham Is NYFW’s Biggest Hit); and +5 more if the picture actually makes it into the New York Times’ Sunday Styles section. Please don’t approach photographers asking them to take your picture. Wait for them to come to you. If you’ve got on a fun outfit and a killer smile, they’ll be drawn to you like moths to a flame.
9. Huff and puff about art fairs. HERE’S YOUR CHANCE TO BE AN A-HOLE!
Because of, the ubiquity of art fairs, people in the art world like to pretend they don’t enjoy art fairs. It’s cool to huff and puff about what a slog it all is and how exhausted you are, but it’s nevertheless paramount that you continue to show up every year, or month, or week (depending on your schedule), if for no other reason than to huff and puff about what a slog it all is and how exhausted you are.
10. Join a museum’s young members committee. DON’T YOU HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO
Joining a young members committee is traditionally seen as one of the best ways to meet other art enthusiasts—not to mention eligible bachelors and bachelorettes and a well-heeled, socially inclined set of new friends. That is, if you have about $500 a year to drop. But be wary: some of the committees have gotten so large that the members barely know each other. And you’ll typically have to plunk down another chunk of change for tickets to the institution’s semi-annual parties.
11. Start an art collection. AT LEAST KNOW YOUR ARTIST
It’s never too soon to start amassing a great collection, especially if you can buy work from up-and-coming artists while you can still afford them. If you’re an artist too (or perhaps you have something else to offer), you can always attempt to barter. After all, who better to invest in than your talented pals? If you don’t know any artists personally yet, try checking out MFA shows at art schools, the satellite art fairs that orbit around big ones like Armory and Frieze, and off-the-beaten-path spaces.