Monday, November 29, 2021

Touring Art 101



Tara O’Neill

It’s September and you know what that means: SEASON cometh. Artists are gearing up for a busy exhibition schedule; galleries are fine-tuning plans for upcoming events. And you, my friend, still feel like you’re missing something.

I’ve seen you out there, nosed pressed to gallery window, eyeballs rolling up and down the walls. I’ve also seen you at the outdoor art festival, staying well in the center of the aisle, craning your neck for a peek at what’s inside that booth you will not enter. “Why so shy?” asked I. Well, it turns out you’ve had several reasons, and today we‘re going to bohunk the lot.

You feel under-informed and don’t want to embarrass yourself by asking stupid questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question – I cannot stress this enough. You were told this as a child, you’ve probably told it to a child. You have to start somewhere, and, craziest thing, step 1 must precede step 2. A professional artist/dealer will be delighted at your interest and use it as an opportunity to help bring you closer to a more fulsome relationship with art. Today‘s inquirer is tomorrow‘s collector. How are these prices ascertained? How long did it take to create this? Where does the inspiration come from? Why is this special? These questions, left unasked remain a blockade. If your politely formed questions aren’t politely answered, move on. They must know less than you. Period.

You’re a browser who enjoys admiring art but doesn’t want to insult the artist/dealer with your non-buying ways. I’ve

Enjoy your walk in the park.

Enjoy your walk in the park.

had guests walk into my studio-gallery apologizing as they entered: “Sorry, I’m just peeking…” “Sorry, I’m an art teacher, I don’t want to intrude…” “Sorry, I’m just a student, may I…?” Please, relax. If you’re not looking, we might cease to exist. Okay, okay, that’s a touch heavy-handed, but it’s a lovely compliment when you choose to spend your time engaging with our art. Really. And if it furthers your relationship with art, so much the better. Today’s browsers are next year’s buyers. (Are you seeing a trend here? Good.) Come in, take your time, and remember to ask those questions you’ve kept bottled up.

You hate risking the intrusion of the overly – aggressive artist/dealer. Easily remedied, write this down and save it for the next unnecessarily-attentive artist/dealer: “Thank-you, I’d like to look around. If I have any questions, or need any help, I’ll ask.

You hate risking the disdain of the overly-imperious artist/dealer. These stereotypes are more the exception than the norm, but if an artist/dealer fails to acknowledge your entrance, or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, leave, escape, run like crazy. The guy in the pince-nez and ascot will get out somehow, but there is nothing for you here. Your art-viewing experiences should always be a pleasure, don’t let anyone fool you otherwise.

Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through

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