Repairs in a Pinch

The viewing room in an art gallery is a very elite place to be. Most important ones have them. If you are a prospective client and are taken there for a private showing, you are in luck. You will get absolute attention, flattery, and concern for your every need (plus some free coffee). The everyday lookie loos (most gallery visitors) do not merit this advantage. They have to see what is on the walls (the current exhibition) or at best they can invade the “back room” where the storage of art is the main purpose. Usually you can’t go in alone and there lies the difference in degrees of personal treatment. Gallery staff are notoriously snobbish! Just try getting past that young receptionist who just got her MFA and has something serious to prove. The chip on her shoulder is of a monumental size.

For the elite, the viewing room has to be a nice comfortable space off to the side of the main showroom, and should be furnished with a small sofa strategically placed in front of a large blank wall. There should be few distractions (maybe a sculpture on a pedestal in one corner for an effect). Often there is a glass door. The desired works of art are brought in by gallery helpers one by one for the final judgment process. The director assesses the response and silently signals these helpers to stay put or proceed as the reaction dictates.

Of course, everyone is hoping you, the prospective client, will make the right decision and show your good taste by selecting among the tangible candidates offered be they paintings or drawings. It is okay to ask to see more of course. It is part of the gallery experience and everyone should get a chance to participate.

I remember being in one noted gallery where a rather portly client sat on the sofa and ripped the fabric of the arm cushion as he tried to squeeze into the chair. It made a distinctive sound, but there was only the merest hint of awkward silence before the director dashed off to some unknown hidden arsenal and returned in a flash, with a special upholstery staple gun in hand. In seconds, the tears of cushion fabric were quickly reunited and everything returned to normal. Without another word, the showing of art proceeded without another hitch. This is one tool you should keep around for quick fixes! You might have to reattach a piece of canvas to the back of a wooden picture frame or affix a poster announcing your next show to a wall. Who knew the lowly stapler could save people’s jobs.

Collecting art is very enjoyable, particularly when you can make the gallery rounds on a regular basis. If you frequent the same places, the staff will get to know you and welcome each visit. If they know your taste, they will brings special things out for your review. Once in a while, you might get treated to the viewing couch; and if so, savor the unique experience. It means that as a collector, you have truly arrived.