Etiquette in the Art World: Even More Comments Better Left Unsaid

This past month we were at the Los Angeles Art Show and after five days and tens of thousands of people, I did hear a few new, or variations on, "Comments I Would Rather Not Hear and Things You Should Not Do." This list is getting long!

1. What, no pamphlets?
Yes, someone made a beeline for my desk and that was the first comment out of their mouth! My reply: "Actually, there were a bunch on the desk yesterday, but the brochure hogs took them all; next time you will need to get here a little earlier." I will add that at the L.A. show we had over 2000 catalogs, flyers and cards, most disappeared by Friday afternoon. I had to ration the rest and by early Sunday afternoon everything was gone. On the bright side, this did lighten the load for our trip home; those brochures and catalogs are heavy!

2. This was said while pointing to a work in a friend's booth:
"I received a copy of your brochure in the mail and had an artist friend copy that painting. It is now hanging in my living room." Do you really think a dealer wants to hear that? Look, if you cannot afford the original and want to make a copy, be my guest, but do not tell me about it. In addition, please do not show up to my booth with a photograph of the copy and try to convince me that it is as nice as the original! Yes, that happened as well.

3. "If I wasn't in litigation, I would buy that work."
Is that really the kind of information you want to share with a stranger? Believe me, I do not want to know that; and now knowing that, do you think I want to sell you a painting?

4. Blocking the Box
I covered this with regards to your cell phones, but in L.A. I encountered a new variation on the theme: the MP3 player. Please don't block the booth while determining which playlist you are going to listen to. In L.A. one young girl spent 10 minutes blocking the front of our booth while scrolling through her music. I just sat there in amazement. I will add that once she got to a selection she liked, she did spend time looking at the paintings.

5. Entering a booth when the show is over and you have no intention of buying:
A big NO NO! If you are coming back to finalize a deal, any gallery will be happy to have you come back; but if you are just coming in to "look," then that is inappropriate and unsafe. The show in Los Angeles closed at 5 p.m. on Sunday and visitors were asked to exit the show. At that point I placed chairs in front of the openings to our booth and proceeded to take out all the packing material and started removing the paintings from the wall; items were scattered all over the floor. At least four different people walked into the booth to look around. Note: The fact that the front of the booth has been blocked means you should not enter unless you ask permission. This is not just for your safety, but for the safety of the works of art that are no longer hanging on the walls.

Howard L. Rehs

Howard L. Rehs

After graduating from New York University in 1981, with a degree in Art History, I moved to London for a year to study and buy 19th century British Victorian art for our gallery. Since then my interests have included all schools of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, I am considered one of the leading art dealers in 19th century French Academic and Realist painting and the world's exp...(Read More)

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