How to fake it at an art opening: What to do when you don’t understand what you see


How to fake it at an art opening: What to do when you don’t understand what you see

Of course, you know what you’re talking about

Is this how you feel at an art show? You’re not alone, and you’re going to be fine. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

You’re at an art show. You look around and … you don’t understand anything you’re seeing.

Maybe you see a person sitting on a giant cake, whispering to a head of lettuce? Maybe that person is your co-worker? And maybe turning around and leaving isn’t really an option for you at this point.

Don’t worry, you can do this. Here’s how to fake it at an art show when you have no clue about art.

Talk to the artist immediately when you get there

As soon as you walk in the door, you approach the artist and politely say, “Oh, I haven’t had the opportunity to look around yet, but I’m looking forward to it!”

You are now hereby absolved of actually having to talk about the art to its fragile creator.

Say ‘cheese!’

Any art opening worth attending will have at least a small selection of nibbles. If you’re lucky, you might just score a free glass of wine.

Inevitably, you will get sucked into a conversation, and when that old acquaintance asks what you’ve been up to for the past five years, never forget your safe space! The cheese plate will always be there for you.

“Sorry, Linda, I skipped lunch. I’m going to go grab some dry brie and a Breton cracker.”

Stare at the wall

At what other social event can you simply stand with your back to everyone instead of trying to make small talk, and have it be seen as cultured and thoughtful?

Pro tip: this only works if you have your body aimed at one of the artworks.

Unless you’re willing to argue the greater significance of a blank wall, which might, in fact, make you an Art Star.

Use as many buzzwords as possible

Art is never good or bad, and everything is based on opinion. Instead of saying, “I like this,” try using words to say nothing at all.

“I am noticing the anachronistic use of chiaroscuro highlighting the golden ratio. It’s really giving the work a synergistic balance and tapping into the general zeitgeist of the era.”

It’s 10 times as long and ultimately contributes nothing! You’ll sound very smart to anyone not understanding what those words mean, and by the time anyone processes it, you’ll be long gone with a pocket full of cheese cubes.

Digest the art, not just cheese

Anxiety can skyrocket during social gatherings, but there is one thing that actually helps you survive an art opening: looking at the art.

Listen to what other people are saying, engage and let your honest reactions come out. You might find that you understand it more than you think.

Art shouldn’t be a scary, unapproachable thing. There’s a reason why most openings are Friday nights and not Monday mornings.

Art can make you smile just like this, says Jason Wells. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

You don’t need to talk about art or understand it. You don’t even need to like it. Your reaction is just as valid as anyone’s and there is no wrong way to engage with art.

The best thing about an art show should be the art and the connections you make with people by talking about it. The cheese is just a perk.

Oh, and the reason everyone’s hand is on their chin isn’t to look pensive. It’s to hide their red wine lips.

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