Free Culture Now! Top Ten Schnorrer Gallery Opening Tips
Any urbane schnorrer regularly encounters the problem of sobriety, and is always on the lookout for places where a date will consider freeloading cultured rather than boorish. With these simple tips, you may never have to buy a glass of cheap wine again.
1: Consult the local rags
Most free weekly papers have a section for gallery listings. You want the “openings,” where poor schlubs hope that a case of Tecate and some Trader Joe’s cheese cubes will entice you to drop thousands on their post-pre-late-early-modernist drivel. A true schnorrer knows that the real reward of being an artist is that attractive people will take their clothes off in front of you and occasionally let you touch them because you have deep thoughts.
2: Aim for the “walks.”
An illiterate hooligan goes to pub crawls. A patron of culture gets boozed up at art walks. Most galleries coordinate with others, especially if they’re in an art district, and art walks can be between five and thirty galleries all having simultaneous openings. While it’s often hard to make a full meal of any one gallery’s Chex Mix and salami, multiple galleries balance the diet.
3: Wear something nice-ish
But not too nice. You want to set yourself apart from the hipster rabble so that you stand out at the bar scrum, but not so far outside the American Apparel set as to inflame the class anxieties of your hipster bartender. Turtlenecks are too pretentious, unless they’re ironic. Try to remember what your adjunct professors would wear early in the term, when they still had hope of pulling over-achieving juniors.
4: Get there early
For all of the sturm und drang over the death of contemporary art, there are still enough attendees at most gallery openings to drain the bar by 9:00 pm. Most openings start around 7:00 pm, but you never want to be the first ones there, lest the artist force you into an awkward conversation validating their Freudianisms. Better to shoot for 7:30, make a brief swing by the bar, give the art a cursory glance, and head off to the next destination.
5: Talk the talk
The accumulation of art history has left art purely as a collection of references to other references, much like every show on VH1 without Flava Flav. Feel free to drop names like Dash Snow, Josef Beuys (“Boys”), Gerhardt Richter and Jeff Koons as adjectives at any point for any art. Everyone will nod. At low-brow shows, Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Schwa will be enough to keep the drinks coming, even if you have no idea who they are.
6: Find the next opening
Every opening has a stack of postcards that advertise either the show you’re at, or upcoming exhibitions at galleries close by. Slickly printed, with an image on one side and info about the artist on the back, they’re an easy way to decorate your hovel or pretend are your own work once you’ve got a date back to your place. And there’s nothing art patrons like to talk about more than the show they’re going to next weekend, which will put this show to tatters.
7: Wine, wine, wine
While occasional openings will be sponsored by liquor companies (Skyy Vodka seems particularly desperate to compete with Absolut’s cachet), most offer patrons only beer or wine. As wine has a higher alcohol content, the schnorrer maximizes his or her chances of sweet inebriation by sticking to the wine. It also looks more cultured to have a glass of Two Buck Chuck than a can of PBR, and grifting free booze at openings is nothing if not classy.
8: Savor the snacks
A sweet tooth is a failing we all have, but by sticking to salty and savory snacks, you minimize the wicked wine hangover that is part and parcel of refined society. Have a few cookies as dessert, but only after you’ve finished your dinner of carrot sticks and ranch dip.
9: Save some for later
A napkin stuffed with brie and crackers, or even just cashews methodically picked out of the mixed nuts bowl, is the doggie bag of art openings. And what a pleasant surprise to find chocolates in that sport coat or purse some six months down the line! How deliciously frugal!
10: Do it again
Unlike your friend’s refrigerator or the bulk bins at Whole Foods, food and drink at art openings earns you more celebration each time you swipe it. As the gallery staff and patrons get to know your face, they stop seeing you as another freeloader there simply to spill wine and lean against paintings, and start to regard you with regular bonhomie, inviting you to more private and rarefied events — catered, even. Blagging art openings isn’t a job, it’s a career.
By: Josh Steichmann