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First Thursday Blues: How To Navigate Private Views

By in Art And Culture


Image courtesy of James Kelly | Photo by James Kelly

Unless you are the type of person who can flit from one social circle to another, they are nightmares: the constant explanations, the chin rubbers, the ‘I-am-just-here-for-the-free-wine-ers’, the outlandish outfits and the same old questions. Private views sneak up on you like a blessed curse. Love them or hate them, they happen and you need to endure those long four hours if you want to seem the image of professionalism. They have their merits and are necessary; they are inescapable and they are here to stay. This post candidly looks at private views and how to navigate the “first Thursday blues”.

They used to be for the elite to meet and greet, to rub shoulders with other white collar peers and to sip white wine (never red, darling!). However, of late private views have become one of the most important aspects of an exhibition, small or large, café display or international best-seller, and there are some very good reasons for this.

There is a pattern emerging

Thursdays are the new Fridays, Fridays are the new Saturdays and…I don’t know where that leaves Saturday; but, the point is that things just happen on Thursdays. It is close enough to the weekend to feel good about the week, it is a school night so people don’t get too drunk and Friday is still free to guzzle as many 2-4-1 cocktails as you can during happy hour. People expect a private view. And they expect it to be on a Thursday. Do not disappoint them.

Get your money’s worth

A private view should have wine and it should have wine because it is cheap (-er than other drinks) and drunk people buy things they shouldn’t. If you have invested time and money into awkwardly slapping on a fake smile then you should feel like there is a better chance that your work will sell. And statistically, this is true. It is also a great opportunity to try out those new business cards you had printed.

First impressions

Things rarely change after a private view, but you spend so long setting up for it that you can’t afford for anything to go wrong. The buyers are there, your family are there, and if you are lucky, the press is there. It is important to think about how you are coming across, are you freaking out and worrying about the details (like I do)? If so, then stop, it is too late to change anything in the here and now, just try to have a good time. It also makes your guests feel like there is something to freak out about.

It is lovely to talk to artists at private views, and visitors will hunt you out. Discuss your work in a confident manner, don’t bring the mood down by talking about how it was all inspired by an ex-lover. People are there because they like your work, and you should enjoy revelling in that.

…But you can still learn from your mistakes

You and your work may be centre stage but you can still take the opportunity to scope people out. Private views are a great place to people watch. Most importantly, though, is seeing how people interact with the space and the work, how they move around and what they concentrate on. Use these first impressions of an audience to think about how you could display your work in the future. Is there a particular piece that people crowd round, do they miss others out entirely? Your private view could be the basis for social curation at its finest.

Or just go absolutely crazy

This last point might contradict everything I have said so far, but you are your own person and things don’t always have to revert to type. New and exciting ways are always being dreamt up to entice more visitors through gallery doors. East London, headed by the Whitechapel Gallery, boasts First Thursdays, south London and Deptford X host Last Fridays and you could come up with West Wednesdays or Blue Mondays. Consider how long your exhibition is on for and what you can do utilise the time after the early bird crowd has dissipated. Evening talks, meetings with the artists, closing parties as well as opening ones.

2 comments for “First Thursday Blues: How To Navigate Private Views


September 3, 2015 at 8:07 am

What to do if you are not a social fly and just feel awkward? Is it alright to just hide and people watch? Is it better not to go at all, even if it is your own private view. Is it too bad not to attend your own private views?

Jack Smurthwaite

October 1, 2015 at 11:45 am

Hi Maria, not everyone is a social fly – we all know this. But not attending your own private views isn’t advised. If you don’t feel comfortable, then that is completely understandable; just take a back seat and don’t get too involved with the hustle and bustle.

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