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When the Openings Close In on You

Photograph by Brad Barket/Getty Images
Photograph by Brad Barket/Getty Images

What is it about gallery openings? They should be happy occasions -- free alcohol, new art, people you know or might like to know. Why are these events so often harried and draining? Why do people keep going to them?

Loot has a little shock for you: The only people in the art world willing to comment declined to do so on the record. But based on discussions with artists, gallerists and curators, it comes down to this.

"The reason openings are miserable is the same reason people still go," says an artist represented by a Lower East Side gallery. "For all but a few people, the opening isn't to buy art. It's to meet the people who are buying the art. Or reviewing the art. Or who tell people what art to buy." So it's a social occasion for art world insiders to catch up with each other, and for the outsiders to watch the insiders. Not the art.

And this: "Has it occurred to you that openings are unpleasant because the art is bad?" asked a curator. "If an exhibition or performance feels in some small way meaningful, surprising or engaging, or even makes its audience, God forbid, a little uncomfortable, then it wouldn't feel so oppressive."

This argument goes only so far. The biggest blue-chip galleries in the world are known to put on museum-quality -- or better than museum-quality -- exhibits, with art from rarely seen private collections. Sure, no one was gobsmacked by the Blinky Palermo exhibit at David Zwirner , but it was fun to see.

Anyway, there's a simple antidote to openings. Loot, for its part, has begun to apply it with great success. Show up the day after.

James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.

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