Can Food Make Gallery Openings More Accessible?

"Bakery" by Constance Castillo (via bwog.com)
“Bakery” by Constance Castillo (via bwog.com)

LOS ANGELES — Gallery openings can be intimidating affairs. Smartly dressed artists and art lovers gathered with glasses of wine, discussing art, politics and everything else. All in all, even a friendly crowd can feel tough to break into. Most artists I know can relate. The code of gallery opening ethics is often opaque, and though it varies from city to city, it’s more or less the same energy. “Gallery opening” and “accessible” are two things you rarely see together.

I was clicking around on Harvard Business Review recently and heard about a project called Wok+Wine. It’s a simple idea: networking meets jumbo shrimp. Yup.

Here’s at Peter Mandeno, one of the founders, had to say:

“As soon as the shrimp are out on the table, the energy in the room changes. Something about eating with your hands, sharing food with strangers, and the awkwardness of getting the head and shell off a jumbo shrimp made it possible for people to open up. To connect easily and authentically, to forget the bravado they had brought into the room, and instead just behave as themselves.”

I’m reminded of the gallery openings where there was food served. At an opening at Taller Boricua in New York, I remember dining on delicious shrimp paella rather than sipping wine or beer. At one opening in Manila, they had a barbecue. Maybe the foodie is me is just biased, but I think Mardeno has a point: there’s something about engaging with food that breaks the tension.

Could food be all that’s necessary to make a gallery opening more accessible? Doubtful. Gallerists might balk at the idea of visitors getting their hands sticky so close to fine art, but I’m not sure red wine is much safer. I turned to Twitter and got a couple responses:

What do you think, dear reader? Does food help or hurt a gallery show? How else can we make gallery openings more accessible, or are they accessible enough already?

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