How to fake it…in the art scene

When you’re born you have no idea how to walk, how to talk, or really how to do anything at all except the simplest bodily functions. With time you grow and learn – your parents are great facilitators of this, later on your teachers and coaches are. But there comes a time when there’s no prescribed professional for the things you want to learn, and you need to turn to alternate methods.

Let’s illustrate this. What if you wanted to learn about…ART!? You’ve got lots of options.

BOOKS. Your local library is bound to have scads and scads of tomes on the subject of art – no matter which discipline or period you fancy.

MOVIES. Check out a previous post for a great list of movies about or referencing art. There are tons. And movies about art will be more entertaining and educational than another re-run of Two and a Half Men, so consider that time well-spent!

FRIENDS. Everybody’s got one of those super-artsy friends who’s always in the know about art and galleries and openings and the like. It’s time to start having some indepth conversations, and furthermore to tag along the next time he or she steps out to something arty.

GALLERY VISITS.  My favourite option, and you can bet my hero Claude Levi-Strauss would be so proud of you for your participant observation! You may not pass as a native/local/art patron, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still spy on the real deal to see how they do it. Just suck up the courage and head down to a gallery. I know, the premise of walking into a gallery is daunting – how will you know how to act, what to say, if you should say anything at all. And what if you’re just interested in looking, not buying?

Like any other shop you’ll find in Gastown or Queen West or Chelsea, there are some galleries you’ll feel comfortable in right away, ones that don’t mind adding an element of education into every visit and whose staff are trained and willing to play sherpa on your artful exploration. Likewise there are galleries that are more inclined towards a seasoned clientele who know what they’re looking for – and at.  If you’re intimidated by the one-on-one, gallery and exhibition openings or other special events are a great place to blend into a crowd while still getting yourself “in” the scene. Just check out the gallery’s website to see when they’re having an opening, or check local listings in your paper or online – industry mags like Slate, Preview and Canadian Art offer a digest of local events you can peruse.

ART SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP. Think of this as a really great after-school tutor in combination with your books, movies, friends, and gallery visits.  For example, I’m happy to report that I’m the newest member of the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver.

My first brush with CASV was in December (see Caffeinate yourself!). It’s a not-for-profit society determined to help newcomers to the art world get some cred in a safe environment, and to give seasoned devotees of art a deeply enhanced relationship with the artists and art local to them. Membership fees are affordable enough for almost anyone interested, and the events are as wide-ranging as you could imagine – talks, tours, studio visits and more. If you’re in Vancouver and are interested in getting more into the art scene here check out for events and memberships.

So there you go. Go forth, art lovers!

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