The 5 Best and 5 Worst Things About Gallery Openings

Good luck trying to find a bathroom.

Visitors outside a gallery on 27th Street in New York's Chelsea gallery district. Photo: Etienne Frossard.
Inside a gallery opening. Photo: New York On My Mind.

Inside a gallery opening.
Photo: New York On My Mind.

If you’re reading this, it would appear that you made it through last week’s onslaught of art openings at what felt like every gallery in the city. Potential runoff into this week aside, it feels like we can all finally take a breather. Because the thing about art openings is this: We love them, but we also love to hate them.

Here’s why.


1. Seeing everyone you know.
Adults don’t get to go back to school, but you know what we do get? That first Thursday night back in Chelsea, where you greet your fellow art lovers with hugs, air kisses, and compliments on their tans. You inquire about their summers, despite the fact that, thanks to social media, you likely know exactly where they’ve been in August. Okay, so some of what goes down at openings is the inevitable small talk, but for the most part, there are a lot of people you probably love but rarely get to see outside of galleries and after-parties due to your shared hectic schedule of attending numerous gallery openings and after-parties.

2. Networking opportunities.
You know what they say—a stranger is just a friend (or acquaintance, if you insist on being realistic) whom you haven’t met yet. And where better to meet this person than in a wine-soaked white box full of aggressively ambitious people? There are conversation starters mounted right there on the wall. The stage practically sets itself! If you’re setting sail for openings without your pockets stuffed to the brim with business cards, you’re making a huge mistake.

3. Free booze.
There’s just something inherently enjoyable about sipping the dregs from the last bottle of cheap wine out of those little plastic cups while surrounded by millions of dollars worth of art.

4. Potentially meeting the artist.
Most artists, even famous ones, attend their own openings. If you’re ballsy or you know someone, there’s a chance you’ll even get to meet them and mumble something inarticulate about how much you like their work. If you’re not or you don’t, you’ll at least get to gawk at them for a bit before moving to the next event.

5. That strange sense of excitement. 
No matter how many openings you’ve attended, there’s still a certain thrill to their frenetic energy—like any second something major could happen. Whether its a surprise appearance by Leonardo DiCaprio or an impromptu performance by the artist, being in such close proximity to so many creative people means that the possibility for an unforgettable evening is always lingering just below the surface.

Visitors outside a gallery on 27th Street in New York's Chelsea gallery district. Photo: Etienne Frossard.

Visitors outside a gallery on 27th Street in New York’s Chelsea gallery district.
Photo: Courtesy Etienne Frossard.


1. Seeing everyone you know.
While we stand by our previous statements about it being nice to see (certain) people at openings, you know what a crowded room full of people you’ve met approximately twice isn’t really conducive to? Looking at art. Our advice: don’t expect to be able to really focus on any of the things you’re supposed to be there to focus on, and instead maybe just think of it as a screening process for where you’ll plan to return on Saturday afternoon after brunch.

2. Creepy guys.
Just what is it about crowded sidewalks, free alcohol, and the promise of attractive young gallerinas that brings creepers out from the woodwork? (Oh wait…) If you’re a woman who has dared to walk around Chelsea solo on a busy Thursday night, you’ve probably encountered those weird, always slightly unkempt dudes who will sidle up to you and suddenly start mansplaining their way into a one-sided conversation. After you extract yourself, they will somehow find you on Facebook and send you private messages that just say “hi” at least once a week for the rest of your life.

3. Art-tigue.
You’re likely familiar with the concept of “fairtigue,” and we’d argue that this extends beyond the realm of the art fair. There’s only so much visual art the human mind can process in quick succession before it all just starts to become meaningless and overwhelming. And it’s not just us. There have been studies. Thus, your average major opening night results in mostly exhaustion and foot pain.

4. The pressure to capture it all on Instagram.
It’s not enough to just attend an opening and look at the art anymore. You must also photograph it, crop it perfectly, filter it well, come up with a clever caption, insert the relevant hashtags, and post it to Instagram so that everyone you know is aware that you are, or were, there.

5. Lack of bathrooms.
If you’re in a gallery neighborhood and you have to pee (hey, remember all that wine you just drank?), well, good luck. Unless you know someone on the inside or you’re willing to pull out your checkbook, we suggest you find the nearest Starbucks.

Related stories: 

11 Art World Rules Decoded for 20-Something Newbies

How to Break the Internet With Your Art

14 Young New York Art Dealers To Watch

14 Young Power Players Set to Become the New Art World Aristocracy

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics