royal academy private view

Private View Etiquette – How To Behave At A Private View Exhibition

Open Studio Exhibition season is upon us and Private Views will be filled, hopefully, with buyers, dealers, gallery owners and the likes of us! Well – meaning friends and family along for support and the free drinks and nibbles.  Yes you!  Don’t deny it, we have all been there trying to manouevre around a painting with a backpack on while clinging on to the much treasured Private View vino.  So to help us all out let’s ask ourselves –

What Should One NOT Do At A Private View?

You are no doubt guilty of at least one of the following.  I have a vague memory of a wine wielding, backpack wearing, animatedly talking student almost knocking a painting off the wall!  Oh wait that was me!!!  So as not to alarm you this was a long time ago so please don’t shut up shop when you see me coming!  The backpack is long gone, the wine is, however, here to stay.

Look at the following as a general guide to Private View etiquette.  Of course this does all depend on the type of bash and they do vary.

 dog at show 2 private view


– You have not gate crashed a random student house party!  This is a Private View.  Do not ignore the artist or the art!  This is important to them and they may even be nervous!

– If you have no intention of parting with your hard earned cash for an artwork because you either cannot afford it or simply hate it, do not hold the artist hostage all night.  Yes even if you fancy the pants off them!  The same applies to the gallery owner.  This is their business after all.  No hogging!

– If you know / are friends with said artist / gallery owner I repeat don’t hog their time!  You can discuss your bad hair da y/ last night’s television / footie score / hot bar girl, another time.

– Do not take advantage of the Private View free bar and get drunk or arrive drunk and then drain the free bar.  It is the artist’s show not freshers’ week!

– Do not arrive at the Private View starving and inhale the nibbles leaving barely a morsel for others or follow the nibble guy around like a puppy begging for scraps.

– Do not touch the art.  Don’t let the little darlings near it unless the artist is doing some interactive thing and is actively encouraging touchy feelyness.


private view lucky cow
Lucky cow!


– Do not mistake a sculpture for a coat stand / table / chair.

– Do not huddle in a group in front of a piece of art / blocking a doorway / passageway.  Others may actually be there to see the art.

– Do not wear a backpack as an extension of yourself.  So much wine is wasted this way and leave so many wine stained walls to clean!

– Don’t prop up the bar.

– Do not ask for a discount!  No bartering, this is not a Moroccan souk!  Would you work for half your salary if your boss asked you to?

– Don’t be insensitive and / or insulting.  There will be work you love, work you loathe and work you just don’t get?  But hold your tongue until you leave.  Comments like, “My toddler / cat could paint that!” “Who would buy that?” or worse is just plain rude and can ruin the general atmosphere.

Having said all that have fun!

What have you seen at a Private View or Open Studio Exhibition that made you cringe?  Let us know!

Who Holds Open Studio Exhibitions?

Most Art Studios hold Open Studios with a Private View at least once a year.  Kingston and surrounding areas are very lucky to have so many taking place.

ASC Studios Kingston and Redlees Studios in Isleworth hold Open Studios twice a year.

On selected weekends in June / July and November / December the Surrey Artists Open Studios (SAOS) and ARThouse take place where participating artists open up their Studios and homes to the public.

Kingston Artists Open Studios (KAOS) artists take part in the events above and organise events throughout the year.

3 thoughts on “Private View Etiquette – How To Behave At A Private View Exhibition

  1. Very informative! At an open studio I once had a ‘supportive’ in-law ask me how much I wanted for the saw tucked away in the corner. This seemed to have an effect on a couple of possible customers who stopped talking to me and left. I may forward this on to the rude man who never did buy the saw!!

  2. Fell into conversation with a nice young lady at a private view, we toured the exhibition critique-ing every piece. Turned out, you guessed, she was the artist and I spent the rest of the night re-running our conversation in my head trying to remember what I had said. Luckily I am always positively encouraging (yeah!) and her work WAS genuinely good (smiley face).

  3. At my open studios, I frequently have design & method spies arrive and stalk around the space not speaking to anyone and trying to pry into my storage areas looking for materials ideas, taking snaps of designs, and once, sidling up to a potential customer and telling them not to buy what they were considering!

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