What do I wear to an art exhibition?

I’m blogging about this question because I just searched for it and I know others will too. Art galleries are generally full of pretentious people trying to look like they know something about art. Then there are curators who are either a) a business trying to make money or b) enjoy lively interaction and being closely involved in the art world (mostly both). Then there are artists, who are

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often insecure, try too hard, or have huge egos. What do you wear to ‘blend in’? Here are a few clues:

1) Don’t go overboard. Yes, it is easy to identify the artist as “artist” when they wear a strange or hideous combination of fabrics. But you don’t want to be strange; you want to be approachable so people can feel comfortable talking with you.

2) Not too casual. A lot of artists can get away with jeans and a shirt. They are using their title and jeans to show off that nonchalant stereotype of the artist who doesn’t care.

3) Check with the curator or gallery owner. There’s a good chance they are going to look sharp – really sharp. Don’t be outdone by them.

What to wear to an art exhibition? Dress nice. Not an obviously expensive power suit and sparkling diamond shoes; but a nice suit or business suit is fine. Women can wear a nice dress with good shoes or black pants.

However: If you really hate suits, wearing something you feel comfortable in, which looks pretty chic and stylish, is fine – the most important thing really is your personality and interaction with potential buyers, so you want to wear something that makes you feel good. Yes it is OK to buy a new outfit for an opening. Buy something that expresses your unique style and kind of matches your paintings in some way.

Make sure you get a 2nd opinion. Visual artist’s sense of fashion style is usually a little ‘off’. Get your friends of family to help you pick something out that isn’t too wild.

Final thoughts: I have a huge exhibit next week; most people will probably wear suits. But then I know if I’m in a suit, I will be jealous of those few artists who went with dressy casual, with very hip clothes that make them look like awesome non-conformists. Solution: I’ll probably bring several options, start with nice casual and if I feel underdressed, change into a suit.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: When in doubt… wear a nice suit, tie optional. Everybody looks good in a suit and nobody can critique your tastes or judgment. Women, wear something black and stylish, with maybe a few highlight colors.

4 thoughts on “What do I wear to an art exhibition?

  1. I have an exhibit tomorrow. and it is my first time exploring art and actually doing it to show others in the community. I am so excited. Well…i actually did look for this question on the internet. I was kinda hoping you had some examples for woman. As there is a lot of options for ladies. Then again, what you shared is encouraging. It actually confirmed some things but i also learned a few things too. Thanks for sharing. .

  2. There’s no hard or fast rule on what to where to an art opening. People that have never been to one are extremely intimidated by them. Gallery openings tend to have alot of art snobs that attend but on the other hand, those actually involved in the gathering are really cool, outgoing and awesome. It’s funny too because the “snobs” never buy anything yet they can talk real good while standing in front of a painting! I say, put your money where your mouth is and purchase something. Now for dress! I live in an art community of artists from the 60’s. It’s pretty laid back. We see some crazy stuff but the most important thing I’ve learned is to dress comfortably and have fun with it. Wear something that’s been in your closet you’ve kept pushing to the back, if appropriate. Jewelry is a given. Hats not so much. Save those for the racetrack ;). But my best advice is to purchase something. Doesn’t matter what it is or the size. Walk away with a piece and you’ll never regret it not to mention you’ll get invites to more openings.

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