In the Gallery or Etiquette of a Museum-goer

On a recent trip to the Picasso Sculpture exhibition at The MoMA, I couldn’t help but take in the scene of art spectators in action, in addition to the magnificent art of a master who has truly consumed me most of my adult life. I took my head and heart away from “She-Goat,” the “Bathers,” and “Head of Sylvette” just long enough to notice the bigger picture:

Wearing Black. It is a given that many city folk, or in this case, museum-goers, wear their sleekest article of black clothing in an arty setting; Paris and New York gave us license to do so long ago. Like the art itself, you must put your best foot forward, and, in black you ensure that you do while not taking away from the art as the star of the room; and yet, your quizzical, highly philosophical facial expressions absorbed by none other than the art, will still stand out.

In the Ticket Line. Yes, there may be discounts, especially for members, seniors, or students. I was so pleased to see that the Ivy education I am quickly going further into debt for at least got me into the museum for free-ish. That said, if you are a member, you don’t have to let those in an actual line beside you know that. Some of us can only aspire to your VIP status. You, perhaps, were little once too.

Accoutrements. Museums go to great lengths to give you things with which you can accessorize your visit. Things, like tickets and glossy brochures, may remind you of a piece of art you poured over; or maybe you can use it as proof to show to your friends who think you just sit on the couch when you are not at work. If you don’t need the proof and hate the thought of yet another tree falling, take it anyway. You can recycle it. You are at least helping a poor unpaid art student prove his or her worth by taking the very thing he or she spent hours categorizing by language and color.

Food Prep and Fiber. You may not have thought that preparing your insides for a gallery visit was important. It kind of is. Beware of too many flax seeds on that morning smoothie bowl. Just when you thought you could get away with it, while standing in front of a wall-consuming canvas, letting out your gas, which may or may not be silent, could be, well, deadly. You have no other choice but to turn from the painting in a dramatic whirl to let the person who may follow your, uh, aura, know you were overtaken by the creative energy before you, so you just had to….let go.

Audible. Folks, although the magic that pours from headsets adds an additional layer to your knowledge-base, and you have the option of wearing the rectangular device around your wrist or your neck, please be mindful of your tête-a-têtes with your pal while others are in your vicinity. The device is over your ears, remember, not your mouth. We hear you.

HighWire. Don’t get security angry. Even if you are close to the cord loosely draped in front of the art, make sure the guard sees that the old lady next to you was even closer. Let her get in trouble. She can very likely handle the situation better than you would, and if they get hold of your phone, they’ll see that you just tried to take a selfie with said piece of art just seconds before.

Beautiful Stranger. You have exactly seven seconds to sidle up next to the beautiful one who happens to be staring deeply into the crevices of the very same sculpture you too are studying. It can be categorized as a fantasy, or a date in time; but, if you go one second over that time frame, It. Is. Creepy.

Reading. Okay, how many of you are really reading the wall of text or just pretending to, in order to add to the ultra-cultured, pensive façade you walked into the gallery with? Admit it. You love Picasso, IMMENSELY, but you were really thinking about lunch. However, you stand for approximately two minutes, cock your head from left to right, then move on full of the absence of knowledge you did not take in. At least you are solid with lunch plans.

Tag-a-long. Although you want to proclaim to the room that you’ve had an ounce or two of art history, you hate to admit that you may be enticed to join the tour group who has its very own docent. A docent who, likely unpaid, knows more than you do.

Be Inspired. It may not happen while looking at a painting or piece of sculpture; it may happen while in a stall at the bathroom, clinging a bit longer than expected to the cushion available in the middle of the room, or while you are recycling the brochure you took to make the art student happy. Either way, even if you aren’t sure what you walked into, or remember a single piece of work, think about yourself on display….at the very least, it may be amusing, possibly informative, and likely inspiring, without a facade.


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