There comes a time in each young art girl’s life when she realizes she has options for how to spend the precious few (520, to be exact) Friday nights of her 20s. Not that Friday nights cease to exist after you hit 30 and beyond—rumour has 30s are the new 20s—but I would argue that there is a certain magic to being 20-something, ever on the brink of something great but not quite there yet, equal parts joie de vivre and existential panic. It’s a recipe that makes for great music, great cinema—and great nights out.
Personally, I probably err on the side of Netflix/Postmates/10pm bedtime a little too often to be dishing out advice to the young, wild, free and arty of the world, but I’m here to preach some unconventional wisdom: gallery hopping will always be the best way to top off a busy workweek. But don’t just take my word for it—here are ten irrefutable arguments (fight me in the comments).
Unlike new club/restaurant/bar openings, gallery openings won’t have a three-hour line to get in, so you don’t have to waste your precious free time aimlessly scrolling on your phone, sweating off your makeup, and knowing my luck, probably stuck between a loud gum chewer and someone with a pineapple-flavored vape.
Cardio! Instead of stuffing down nagging guilt about all the 5am workouts you snoozed through this week with the help of a free breadbasket, you get to feel virtuous by spending the evening on your feet. Most of the time galleries are concentrated in just a few blocks, so if you plan your night right, you’ll be able to walk from one destination to the next. As a bonus, less money spent on Uber!
This brings us to our next point: budgeting. Definitely not the sexiest item on the list, but the starving artist became a trope for a reason. Unless you’ve already made it big, you’re probably scraping by as a ridiculously underpaid gallery girl or trying to piece together a sliver of financial stability with a mash-up of freelance and part-time gigs.
For any young woman in a big city, maintaining a social life while living on a budget often feels like a flat-out myth made up to make us feel like we’re failing at this elusive thing called ‘adulthood’—and the extra cash we do have could be much better spent on clothes, on art, perhaps even on rent, than on cover fees and $20 cocktails, which are sadly the ticket to so many of our weekend social options.
Use gallery hopping as a brilliant manoeuvre to outwit this trap: just grab a few of your artiest friends for all the thrills of a night out on the town at a fraction of the price tag.
Free wine! This could technically be filed under saving money, but if you’re like me, this is exciting enough to deserve its own point. And although gallery wine sometimes gets a bad rap, it needs to be at good enough to serve people rich enough to buy the art, so if you’re lucky (and if the gallery just made some big sales to cushion the budget), the quality will be decent to very good.
And if it’s bad enough to give you flashbacks to the god-awful wine in a bag you drank in college, there’s always another opening just down the block… on to the next!
The people watching. You’d be hard-pressed to find another spot in town with a higher concentration of cool haircuts and intriguing conversation than a gallery opening—at least one that’s open to the public (if anyone has a plus one to Meryl Streep’s next dinner party, please @ me).
Potential celebrity sightings. Unlike spotting Johnny Depp sulking in a fedora across the dimly lit restaurant, galleries are bright and tight, so if you do happen upon a face that you’ve only seen on screens and in the pages of magazines, chances are you might be able to exchange a couple words. Just casually work your way over to whichever piece they’re admiring and very nonchalantly offer up an opinion or ask for theirs.
The slightly elevated dating pool. Although enjoying fine art is sadly no guarantee of lower levels of douchebaggery in the male sex, at least you know the art bro chatting you up by the rosé table probably has a better-decorated loft and a trendier closet than the average guy you’d meet online or at a club. You’re also saved the scramble for conversation topics—you literally have some hanging on a wall in front of you—and won’t have to resort to excruciating small talk.
It’s also a great way to weed out a mansplainer, a pretentious asshole or someone with zero opinions on anything before you’re in too deep, which also makes gallery openings the perfect litmus test for an early date.
Education. Unlike all the other things you could be doing from 6 to midnight on a Friday, most of which include empty calories, empty conversation and an empty wallet, you’ll probably come away energized and inspired, both by the art and by the artfully put together outfits surrounding you.
Connections. As much as I hate the word ‘networking’ and the social scheming it involves, for a young woman aspiring to make it in the art world, it would be stupid not to take advantage of any opportunity to make connections. In an industry based on who you know at least as much as what you know, making the right impression on the right person could pay off big time, whether it’s tomorrow or twenty years from now.
Just go into it with the intention of meeting fascinating people who do what you want to do, and do your best to be genuine—any self-respecting art person can spot a fake a mile away.
Text by Katya Lopatko