Artiquette: 11 Tips to Surviving a Gallery Dinner

Taking a doggie bag is not a good look. Ever.

Atmosphere== The Gordon Parks Foundation 10th Anniversary Awards Dinner and Auction== Cipriani 42nd Street, New York== May 24, 2016== ©Patrick McMullan== Photo-Patrick McMullan/PMC==

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

The Mana Contemporary Miami Art Week Preview. Photo: courtesy BFA.

The Mana Contemporary Miami Art Week Preview dinner.
Photo: courtesy BFA.

A major art world rite of passage is the gallery dinner, a rather rarefied affair that definitely requires insider connections to secure a coveted invitation. If you’re not sure how to handle yourself, artnet News has you covered with our best advice for how to behave at a post-opening repast and not spoil your chances of getting another invite.

1. Don’t go if you haven’t seen the show first
The artist and the gallery have worked hard to put this together. If you’re going to get a free meal in the bargain, the least you can do is stop by, if only for the last 15 minutes of the opening. To skip is the height of rudeness. But if you absolutely have to, you’d better be charming enough that your ignorance about the show won’t matter.

2. Be a good sport when it comes to the name game
Gallery dinners are filled with familiar names and faces, but sometimes the faces are more familiar than the names. One way to help someone remember you is to greet them with your first and last name. They’ll be sooo thankful. And maybe they’ll even do the same for you. After you’re done mingling with people at other tables in between courses, don’t forget to give out your business card and get some in return and study them on your way home before all the names and faces just become a big jumble until the next night out.

3. Feeling shy? So is Joe Art Star
At a recent dinner, artnet News met Emma Sulkowicz, who went from college art student to overnight sensation on the strength of her Columbia thesis project, in which she carried her mattress around campus to protest the administration’s handling of her sexual assault claim. Her advice for navigating the gallery dinner scene? “It’s really okay to talk to people you don’t know,” she told us. “Everyone feels awkward talking to people they don’t know.” Just remember that and the whole thing will seem a lot less intimidating.

Related: 7 Things Not to Do on a Studio Visit

4. Don’t let your snob side show
Yes, sometimes it might seem like you’ve been seated in Siberia, and it might make you wonder what the organizers from the host gallery really think of you. Not so fast. Before you do something in a fit of pique, remember not to be a snob and be friendly. Whether the night is dull or interesting is up to you.

Photo: Neil Rasmus/

Photo: Neil Rasmus/

5. Egos are delicate, so tread carefully
You might not recognize your table mate, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a VIP—at least in their own mind. Try to get on everyone’s good side (a trip to the bathroom and a quick Google search on your smartphone will get you up to speed). Be careful not to be too starstruck if you find yourself sitting with a bold-faced name. And if you want to take a selfie with her, read this first.

6. Don’t flake out 
Dinners can be carefully-orchestrated affairs, with thoughtfully-considered seating arrangements. Know what kind of event you’re attending, and plan accordingly. The smaller the party, the worse it will look if you back out last minute. If you have to cancel, let them know at least the morning of, if not sooner.

7. Taking a doggie bag is not a good look. Ever. 
You may be tempted, but try to ignore the siren call of next day leftovers. Now is not the time.

8. Don’t be a schlub
You’re at an art event, so try to dress the part. You might end up getting noticed, like this.



9. Be discriminating 
If you’re not careful, your social calendar can fill up fast. Only say yes to invitations for shows that actually interest you.

10. Take advantage of that free-flowing wine, but don’t go overboard 
Yes, most everyone loves a free cocktail, but over-indulging is a surefire way not to making the wrong kind of lasting impression.

11. Thank the host
Always. Make your mother proud.

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