thumbnail image

A feeling of being judged. A feeling that you’re not being received with open arms. A feeling of being out of place. Joakim Sjunnesson discusses the cliché of the arrogant, condescending atmosphere sometimes present when visiting an art gallery.

3 min read

You open the door. A head turns. The owner is sitting at an exquisite light wooden table, wearing a pair of black frames. The person subconsiuosly examines you before turning the gaze down again, leaning over an inventory or a book of some kind (what are they reading?) they may finally say “hello” in a hushed voice. They are of whatever gender but they’re most certainly only going to give you attention for a maximum of a few seconds. And of course the place is dead quiet. Recognise this scenario?

Perhaps you do. Perhaps you don't. Nonetheless, this idea about the gallery being a place of elitism and lack of interest in you as a potential customer is something that still exists according to many of us. But also to state the fact; galleries are often empty - that clearly must be a judgement of their popularity Arguably a narrow concept of what an art gallery can potentially be.

For some gallery owners dealing with art is looked upon as any profession and path to making a living. For others it’s the pure passion for art. Be it they are deeply interested in the actual artistic practice, the process of bringing an artist into existence, or be it the love for the works of art currently occupying the walls. For the most part, we observe a bit of both. Art displayed in galleries are after all, luxury objects for sale.

This week, I paid a visit to two unlike venues each offering its audience art but in different forms and settings. The exhibition “Icon” showing photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe at McCabe Fine Art Gallery and the new Tom Ford film “Nocturnal Animals” at Bio Rio. Happily both the gallery and the cinema offered a splendid service. I thought to myself: "Wow! the person at the gallery was really nice. As friendly as the person at the counter in the cinema (who’s always friendly and professional)".

All nice and clean, but on second thought I realised that the standard of good manors of just saying “Hi” with a friendly smile should actually be the least thing a person working at a gallery should do when one steps into the gallery. Creating a welcoming, non judgemental and open atmosphere will surely create a conducive space for any exhibit or business.

All being said and done, my visit to McCabe left me feeling hopeful. Even though visual art can be considered hard-to-get and privileged, I cheer the opposite.

I didn't purchase anything, but I was welcomed in a laid back, unpretentious or condescending way, and the visit was well worth it. I'll certainly pay a revisit.