Art Fair Etiquette: The Dos And Don'ts
This month, art experts and aficionados are flying from all over the world to attend Art Basel Hong Kong. To blend in the crowd, there are certain dos and don'ts when visiting the many exhibitions and art fairs happening around town. Here is a little refresher on art fair etiquette to avoid embarrassing faux-pas
DON'T TOUCH THE ART
Artists have worked tirelessly on their work, and fingerprints are not welcome. The oil and natural sweat on your fingers can chemically alter the piece of art and remove trace elements from the surface—like varnish—ultimately ruining the painting or sculpture. Stay at least a foot away if you want to avoid being reprimanded by security.
BE CAUTIOUS WITH CHILDREN
Gallerists, curators and critics are usually thrilled to see the next generation of art lovers learning about art. However, take precautions to ensure that your little ones won't be running around the fair to avoid disturbing visitors and serious collectors, and possibly sending artworks flying.
DON'T WEAR A BACKPACK
A backpack may be the easiest way to carry everything if you have a long day ahead, but it’s easy to forget how bulky it can be. If you turn around at an art fair, you can risk knocking over artwork or bumping into people in the crowds.
RESPECT PHOTOGRAPHY SIGNS
While the myth that “a flash fades the colour pigments of a painting” may have been debunked, there are still many galleries who put up a “no flash photography” sign. Some artists might not want you to take pictures at all—out of fear of copyright infringement—so keep an eye out for the signs.
Finally, please be careful when taking selfies to avoid a repeat of 2017, when a woman in Los Angeles fell back into a pedestal, subsequently causing a domino effect and ruining US$200,000 worth of sculptures created by Hong Kong-based British artist Simon Birch.
DO NOT CRITICISE
It is rude to belittle or insult an artist’s work at a fair. The gallerist—or even the artist—may be within earshot. If you don’t appreciate the art, simply nod and walk away.
DON'T SHOVE YOUR WAY UP FRONT
When walking around the art fair, it is important to wait your turn to see each piece. Once you do, do not monopolise the space for too long. Let others enjoy the piece as well.
DO ASK QUESTIONS
More than 1,000 artists' works will be featured at Art Basel Hong Kong—and it’s impossible to know all of them. If someone is raving about an artist or a piece of art you aren’t familiar with, do not pretend to be knowledgeable. Ask questions instead. Feel free to approach gallerists and curators as they are always happy to introduce new artists and artworks to curious art lovers.
See also: Beyond Art Basel: 9 Non-Profit And Museum Shows To See In Hong Kong