Artiquette: 10 Ways to Score on Your Art World Date

Art museums are a great place to fall in love.

A couple admires Damien Hirst's Beautiful RED Spin Painting on sale at Sotheby's London for Valentine's Day 2008. Courtesy of Cate Gillon/Getty Images.

Artiquette is a series that explores etiquette in the art world.

When it comes to dating, art museums and galleries can be an inspiring setting that lets you class it up while showing off your discerning taste. The Yale Art Gallery was even the first date of choice for Bill and Hillary Clinton (although the future president had to talk his way in, as the museum was actually closed due to a strike.)

But how does one choose the perfect exhibition to set the love train in motion? There are so many variables in play that arranging a date at an art space can be intimidating.

After canvassing my Facebook friends for their best art world date experiences (both horror and success stories), I’ve distilled it all down to 10 helpful tips for the next time you invite that special someone you’ve got your eye on to the blockbuster exhibition on everyone’s must-see list.

1. Please put a little thought into it
To ensure a successful date, have something specific in mind, not just any museum at random. Get a sense beforehand of what kind of art your date appreciates, and pick something that is likely to interest them.

You don’t have to go location scouting, but you want to know what you’re getting yourself into, especially if you’ve never visited an institution before. Andrew Panos, for instance, decided to bring a date on his first trip to New York’s American Folk Art Museum—hours before their dinner reservations. “We were done with the whole space in 30 minutes,” he wrote. “It was one of the most awkward dates I’ve been on.”


2. Skip the racy artwork early in the relationship 
Artists tend to try and push the envelope, and especially edgy work might not be the best date material. If it’s early in the relationship, sexually-explicit exhibitions can make for an awkward viewing experience.

“I went on a first date to PS 1 years ago and stumbled into an exhibit which was mainly various photos of male genitalia,” wrote Meg Hannigan Domínguez. “I think if you had a better connection than we did, it could have been funny and [a chance to] laugh together, but we didn’t—and were too far into the exhibit to turn back!”

3. Don’t be a controlling overplanner 
Yes, you probably have a good idea of what’s on view and what you’re interested in seeing, but leave room for spontaneity. “Enjoy looking at all the other things while trying to find the exhibits WITHOUT using a map or asking anyone,” suggested Rick Swentik, Jr. “Going to an art museum is fun, but getting lost in an art museum is a date.”

4. You might be a pretentious know-it-all but try to tamp it down for the date
If you’re a big art lover, it can be tempting to try and impress your date with fancy art lingo and know-how. That’s fine, but be careful not to do all the talking. You don’t want your date to think you’re pretentious, or to feel like you aren’t interested in their opinions.

“Share what you know and like,” said Megan K. McCabe. “But don’t assume the other person is stupid or knows nothing.”

5. But, then again, don’t be an ignoramus
On the other end of the spectrum, you better have something intelligent to say. Obviously no one can be an expert on everything (that’s why dilettantes are so popular), so try to have a basic familiarity of the subject in order to have a lively conversation.

Lulu Krause once went on a date to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where she was eager to share her love of Henri Rousseau‘s La Reve, which she had written a paper about in college. After enthusing over the work for a minute or two, she said she asked him what he thought of it. “He said, ‘the cats in the painting are so funny and goofy. Just like MY cat!'”

Perhaps even more embarrassing, artnet’s Neha Jambhekar told me that a guy once asked her “if Cubism was about artists from Cuba.”

6. Oh, behave!
A few key behaviors to avoid: Touching the art, getting drunk off the free wine at gallery openings, and yes, having sex in a out-of-the-way stairwell. All are likely to get you in trouble with management and/or security, and while a little illicit romance has its own appeal, getting caught could be absolutely mortifying.

7. Romance could be anywhere, even under an awning
At her very first gallery opening after moving to New York, art reporter Alina Cohen had quite the “meet-cute,” as they say. “I was looking at one of the works when a photographer asked if he could take my picture—with the stranger standing next to me,” she wrote.

“It was pouring that night, and we ended up taking cover under the same Upper East Side awning” after chatting inside, she said. Though it wasn’t a lasting love connection, Cohen admitted, “when I remember that night, it evokes a certain sense of romance and hope.”

8. Consider the selfie but lose the stick
If there isn’t heavy social media documentation of your date, did it really happen? A nauseatingly-cute couples selfie with an au courant art installation is surefire way to cement your relationship status—at least in the eyes of your followers. Just avoid the criminally uncool (and oft-banned) selfie stick.

9. Go beyond art
There are plenty of other great museums in this city. A dip in the Museum of Ice Cream’s sprinkles pool, for instance, sounds plenty romantic.

Plus, I have it on the authority of one Jeremy Aiss that the “biodiversity room at American Museum of Natural History is best place to close the deal.”

10. There’s always a bar
If your date doesn’t seem to be feeling the art exhibition of your choice, don’t panic—you aren’t committed to an art date, after all. As Alexandra Gaete suggested, “go to a bar instead.”

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