We’re three weeks into 2017, and I’ve come to realise the importance of the schmooze in the art world.
I spent the beginning of the year in Singapore, checking out what was on at the Singapore Biennale and the first week of Singapore Art Week. This past week was also the first week of 2017 back at Sotheby’s Institute, and London Art Fair! The London Art Fair was a pretty large event, where over a hundred galleries from across the UK and other regions were present at booths in the Business Design Centre. Combine that with the desire to keep up with global current affairs and it is safe to say it’s been a busy and challenging few days for all of us.
In all the noise that surrounds these large-scale events, I enjoy remaining silent. I did not go to any of the events alone but I was very particular about who I do spend time with.
This is not coming from a place of arrogance, but it is to make a point about the topic – the schmooze.
A schmooze is a long and intimate conversation, and a word I enjoy saying very much.
The character of the art fair and other arts events is a lot like the networking sessions that happen in the legal sector and in the corporate world in general. There are well-dressed individuals present that work and play in the industry, with a decent amount of alcohol and a lot of (sometimes ritualistic) chatter.
I’ve so far been quite comfortable talking to strangers at such events, and the intimacy of those conversations was in the sense of them being private, cosy and relaxed but not with much familiarity. There is wisdom in serving alcohol at these events.
Conversations around art have always been very different in my personal experience. They only have ever begun when a sense of privacy and relaxation has already been established, and very much come from a place of familiarity with the person I’m talking to. With any luck, it has also come with a camaraderie I deeply value.
At the London Art Fair I chose to explore alone despite a number of peers present, because it felt a lot like the first type of networking rather than the latter that I’ve usually engaged in when art is involved. The Business Design Centre in London was brightly light from the high ceilings, although a lot of booths had special and sometimes softer lighting for the artworks. Despite the hundred corners and turns, there was nowhere to hide and little to no chance of getting lost. All excellent things for a fair.
The people I was approached by, and the conversations I did have were more difficult ones because every ingredient to create a genuine connection was present except the setting.
Such large-scale events and their success are positive signs and milestones for art as a market, but they do not facilitate schmoozing.
Maybe if I could afford that work by L.S. Lowry I saw at the fair and love so much, I would not even have thought about my desire to schmooze.