Artiquette: 10 Tips for Dressing the Part of the Art Connoisseur

Don't bother keeping it classy.

Maria Borges at the Museum of Arts and Design's The Garden of Earthly Delights Gala. Courtesy of Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.
Maria Borges at the Museum of Arts and Design's The Garden of Earthly Delights Gala. Courtesy of Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.

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

There is always something going on in the art world, but feeling comfortable at a fancy gala or an opening can be a tall order. Luckily, dressing the part is a surefire way to help you fit in—or stand out.

Maggie Bryan, Terence Koh, Stacy Engman, Peter Brant Jr. Image: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan

Maggie Bryan, Terence Koh, Stacy Engman, Peter Brant Jr. Image: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan

1. Dress ‘funny.’
“All people who dress funny know each other by sight,” Vogue‘s Lynn Yaeger told Isaac Mizrahi at the opening of his Jewish Museum exhibition. “We all kind of say hi to each other in this way, even if we don’t know each other.” In the art world, you can get away with some pretty wild fashion choices, so definitely feel free to push sartorial boundaries. But if you’re going to commit to making a statement, you can’t just go boring at the next event; take a page out of fashionable curator Stacy Engman’s playbook, and wear a tiara, or like Terence Koh (both pictured above), wear nothing but white, always and forever. But if you do, you have to keep it up, at every gallery dinner, press lunch, or show opening—just saying.

A Jürgen Teller photo of Kim Kardashian. Courtesy of Jürgen Teller.

A Jürgen Teller photo of Kim Kardashian. Courtesy of Jürgen Teller.

2. Don’t bother keeping it classy.
Yes, we’ve always thought it best to keep it classy. But let’s face it, Kim Kardashian‘s see-though 2015 Met Ball gown and then her bizarre Jürgen Teller photoshoot, that seems to re-emerge in a flurry of Instagram selfies at almost any art fair around the world, has got us wondering otherwise. Her nearly-nude looks have consistently earned her a place on the art world’s worst-dressed list, but who cares when she continues to break the Internet with every barely-there sartorial assemblage. It’s probably wiser to try to do whatever she does.

Dian Liu at the Watermill Center benefit in 2015. Courtesy of Sean Zanni/PatrickMcMullan.com

Dian Liu at the Watermill Center benefit in 2015. Courtesy of Sean Zanni/PatrickMcMullan.com

3. Be prepared for the great estates.
Sure, plenty of time you’ll be hanging out in a white cube, but as the weather warms up, and the Hampton Jitneys start getting jammed, there will be garden parties and other outdoor soirées to contend with as museums and foundations take advantage of their well-manicured grounds.

Keep in mind that what works for the red carpet doesn’t necessarily translate to the front lawn. You don’t want to spend the whole night struggling to keep your heels from sinking into grass, or worrying about a lacy dress getting caught in prickly foliage.

Dustin Yellin, Valentine Uhovski, and Olga Rei at TUMBLR's 4th Annual ABMB 2015 Brunch Honoring Dustin Yellin at the Standard Spa 40 Island Avenue, Miami. © Patrick McMullan/Sean Zanni.

Dustin Yellin, Valentine Uhovski, and Olga Rei at TUMBLR’s 4th Annual ABMB 2015 Brunch Honoring Dustin Yellin at the Standard Spa 40 Island Avenue, Miami. © Patrick McMullan/Sean Zanni.

4. Don’t get naked, unless, of course, you’re Dustin Yellin. 
Dustin Yellin seems to wear the same thing everywhere he goes, so it was definitely shocking when he ‘dropped trou’ at a brunch held in his honor at Art Basel in Miami Beach last year. Unless you are such an established artist that you can get away with just about anything, we’d recommend staying away from his playboy antics.

Jean Shafiroff at El Museo del Barrio's Gala. Courtesy of BFA.

Jean Shafiroff at El Museo del Barrio’s Gala. Courtesy of BFA.

5. Befriend the photographers.
You might think it’s okay to pop by an opening in jeans and sneakers, but if you’re looking less than fashionable, you’ll want to avoid Patrick McMullan and BFA—otherwise that bad hair day might be forever immortalized online.

JiaJia Fei at the Linder Fall 2016 Men's Presenation, the Brant Foundation Study Center, and the Guggenheim's International Gala. © Patrick McMullan, photographer, Aurora Rose, Clint Spaulding, and Jimi Celeste.

JiaJia Fei at the Linder Fall 2016 Men’s Presenation, the Brant Foundation Study Center, and the Guggenheim’s International Gala. © Patrick McMullan, photographer, Aurora Rose, Clint Spaulding, and Jimi Celeste.

6. Don’t let your wardrobe get repetitive. 
Variety is key. It may seem ridiculous, but it doesn’t look great if you’re photographed wearing the same thing too many times, even if it is absolutely perfect. One young PR rep told artnet News that she was embarrassed that her only two photographs on BFA featured the same bulky turtleneck sweater, even though they were taken at different events on different days. If you do, just avoid the photographer.

Lauri Firstenberg, Bettina Korek at FREEWAY X FORYOURART X RAYMOND PETTIBON LAUNCH AT MAXFIELD LA. Image: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan

Lauri Firstenberg, Bettina Korek at FREEWAY X FORYOURART X RAYMOND PETTIBON LAUNCH AT MAXFIELD LA. Image: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan

7. Know what you can get away with.
If you don’t have the means of a big time collector, which can make attending a black tie gala tricky, join the cultural elite by wearing black on black on black. You’ll get away with a lot more.

Tara Donovan sculpture and the Row dress. Photo: Instagram/@paridust

Tara Donovan sculpture and the Row dress. Photo: Instagram/@paridust.

8. Match the art. 
If you really want to make a splash, take a page out of fashion blogger Pari Ehsan‘s page, and pick out an outfit that will photograph perfectly with the art on view. There’s something seriously stunning about looking like you just stepped out of a canvas.

Stacey Bendet, Amirah Kassem at the Art Production Fund Concrete Jungle Gala. Photo: BFA.

Stacey Bendet, Amirah Kassem at the Art Production Fund Concrete Jungle Gala.
Photo: BFA.

9. When in doubt, Rent the Runway. 
In a pinch, remember that you don’t necessarily have to buy your next fancy dress. Companies such as Rent the Runway or Albright Fashion Library let you rent a fancy dress at the fraction of the cost (and the closet space) of buying.

The author fails to adhere to the White Hot dress code at the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy of Sarah Cascone.

The author fails to adhere to the White Hot dress code at the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy of Sarah Cascone.

10. Check the dress code. Twice. 
Look what happened to the author when she didn’t catch the “White Hot” part of the invitation to this year’s Brooklyn Artists Ball. Trust us, you don’t want to be that girl at the white party in blue and green. But on the other hand, maybe you do.


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