29 Oct

The next time you attend an art fair or the opening of an exhibition at an art gallery and you’ve said everything there is to say about the art work, try playing this game. For those of a competitive bent it can be played for prizes or forfeits of your choosing.  If you’re not competitive or you just don’t have any friends, you can even do it silently in your head. Be warned, though, that this latter option may lead to inadvertent displays of smirking or smug superiority which will make other people think you’re cool, a total prick, or both of the aforementioned.

The game is simple: you earn points for spotting any of the standard tropes, quirks, affectations and whatnot from the list below (plus any others you would like to add).

Sartorial/Grooming Category

Massive spectacle frames +1, Massive spectacle frames that don’t seem to be fitted with prescription lenses +3, Massive spectacle/sunglasses frames that are blatantly not necessary (e.g. worn on the head, or no lenses) +5, Tweed jacket +1, Keffiyeh +2,  Any other form of scarf worn needlessly indoors +1, Hat +1, Bicycle helmet +2, Ridiculously small hat +3, Trousers too tight +1, Woman with hair like a shop mannequin’s wig +2, Random, asymmetrical haircut  (includes good haircut allowed to grow out into a bird’s nest through laziness and/or bohemianism) +2, Moustache (normal) +2, Moustache (ostentatiously groomed) +3, Beard (normal) +1, Beard (Unabomber/Polar explorer/Joy of Sex man) +2, Middle aged female curator/arts professional with severe haircut, bright red lipstick and unidentifiable but clearly expensive clothing +5, “I’m just a bloke” jeans and t-shirt artist bloke +2, Person who seems to be in some sort of fancy dress, but probably isn’t +4, Enormous bag +1, Stupid shoes +1

Demographic Category

Obvious art student +1, Obvious art student who spends the whole night sharking around and zeroing in on people they think might help their career +3, Art student crosses the line between networking and creepy stalking +4, Artist who thinks everyone is trying to get off with him or her +3,  Artist or curator spends the whole night trying to get off with somebody +5, Male artist who talks incessantly while his female partner stands silently behind his shoulder +2 (If he doesn’t even bother to introduce her +4), Any other friend or partner who would obviously prefer to be elsewhere +1, Collaborative duo never seen apart +2, Collaborative duo never normally seen apart, actually seen apart +5, Clueless middle aged hobby artist who hates the kind of work the gallery shows but still thinks their work should be in that gallery +2, Anyone properly drunk on free booze alone +2 (If they’ve been there since the very minute the gallery opened so as to get drunk on the free booze +4), Artist’s mum or dad +5, Shrieking hyperactive rug rats totally ignoring their despairing, embarrassed parent’s admonitions +2, Shrieking hyperactive rug rats with parent(s) who apparently don’t know or don’t care what their children are doing +3, Children who shouldn’t be at the gallery at all for reasons of subject matter, disruption, unfairness to the children themselves, etc +4  Posh, horsey woman +1, Die hard Northerner, Scot or similar who’d never live anywhere but London +2, Trustafarian +2, Shoreditch Twat +1, Japanese woman +2 (doesn’t count in Japan, obviously)

Phrases and Habits

“I’m a friend of the artist” +2, “Where are you based?” +1, “What are you working on at the moment?” +1, For each person loafing around in the corridor or outside and forming a self-consciously too cool for school clique +1, Name dropping somebody most people have heard of +1, Name dropping somebody most people have not heard of +2, Ignorant misunderstanding (e.g. “Where’s the art?”, sitting on an artwork, beer bottles on an artwork) +2, “I could do that” +1, “My five year old could do that” +2, Artist arrives an hour late or more for the opening of their own exhibition +2, Artist clearly doesn’t care about talking to anyone except his or her friends, or the attendance of anyone except them +3, “We’re not staying long, we have another private view later” +2, Air kiss +1, Arrival of bigwig provokes fawning approaches from artist, gallerist, etc. +5, Introduced to somebody and they don’t even pretend they care who you are +2, Aggressive/argumentative drunk +2, Argument about what art is +5

Gallery Practices

Incomprehensible press release, catalogue or handout +1, Typo, spelling error, or factual error in written material +1,  Exaggeration or lie in written material +3, “The artist works between [1st city or country] and [2nd city or country]” +1, “[Artist]’s work [hovers/oscillates/forms a dialogue, etc] between [random thing 1] and [random thing 2]” +3, Video projection, monitor or electronic art not working +1, Interactive work not actually interactive for health and safety reasons +2, Performance art makes you cringe +2, Performance art or intervention that’s so bewildering you don’t know whether to applaud, or just stand there, or what +3, Artist(s) in a state of gratuitous undress or nudity in their work +2,  Live artist(s) in a state of gratuitous undress or nudity in person, in the gallery +3, Everyone immediately tries to pretend the performance art didn’t just happen +3, Pointless and lengthy speech by gallerist +1, Less than ten people show up +3, Artist talks nonsense about their own work +2, Everyone politely ignores the fact that the exhibition is all pictures of massive cocks, or it’s made of shit, etc. +5, Prints or similar held up with bulldog clips +1, Very small artwork alone on the floor +1, Crappy looking artist pamphlet +1 (if it also costs more than £5, +2), Old film projector +1, naïve signage or slogans, deliberate or otherwise +2, neon or otherwise illuminated words or phrases +2, Art includes somebody cutting or mutilating themselves, bleeding, inserting something into themselves or carrying out a bodily function +4, Artist obviously can’t do hands +2, Derivative of Joseph Beuys +1


4 Responses to “PRIVATE VIEW I SPY”

  1. joeharrod (@joeharrod) 31/10/2011 at 6:04 PM #

    OMG this idea is such old hat, it’s practically vintage. In fact, it’s so old it’s a mainstream revival. Like a Top Shop sweatshop vintage re-work. New old hat.

    • Alistair 31/10/2011 at 6:28 PM #

      To mitigate against such comments, I wrote and published this post simultaneously before it was mainstream, while it was mainstream and after it was mainstream. No Bangladeshi children were harmed or exploited by me at any point during these timelines.

    • Alistair 05/11/2011 at 2:54 PM #

      Also, this lazy and negative post has twice as many views as the positive, pleasant one about P. Rist that preceded it. QED.


  1. criticismism » Blog Archive » Found Objects 31/10/11 - 31/10/2011

    […] eye around just about every private view you’ve ever been to and compiles a priceless spotter’s guide to the […]

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