Art galleries generally carry the reputation that they overflow with pretentious gashes and pseudo-intellectuals. This perception is both true and false. There are indeed clients with more wealth and pride than one could know what to do with in a lifetime, much less a singular interaction.
But on the contrary, the space is more often filled with an array of students, the average middle-class American, foreign visitors, former (and current) ravers, the homeless and, of course, many, many others.
In such a diversified environment, particularly for Fargo, combined with the high-pressured nature of art dealing, makes for moments marked by pure oddity and hilarity. The chaotic and idiosyncratic environment I’ve worked in for the last two years has left me with these highlights, among countless others.
Our gallery is a connected operation with a yoga studio, and more often than not, we field their phone calls regarding business inquiries.
On a quiet, unassuming weekday, I received a phone call from an apparently over-caffeinated woman asking details on our different exercise programs. Cluing into the fact that someone is hyperactive and constantly teeth-smiling over cellular communication isn’t necessarily simple, and serves as a testament to this woman’s zeal.
Although these personality types differ from my own, I’ve become a pro at relating to them. Until she dropped the conversation bomb.
“Do you offer mommy-and-me classes? I have a one-and-a-half year-old that loves yoga and pilates.”
I’m happy for her toddler, I really am. But I’m also happy the discussion took place over the phone, as my uncontrolled facial expression likely mimicked the “expressionless face” emoji to a tee.
Whales and wolves
Downtown’s monthly Corks & Canvas event is a surefire way to increase foot traffic, and undoubtedly change the usual retail atmosphere, for better and worse.
In a rare instance, guests will actually look at the collections, rather than beelining it to the wine station, taking the samples as shots, and move on to the next store to repeat the process.
During the most recent Kegs & Canvas – Corks’ autumnal sibling – a few somewhat acquaintances took a gander through Mike Marth’s solo show.
Fascinated by one particular abstract sculptural relief, my director mentioned his three-year-old niece equated the piece to a fish – a wise observation, if I must say. This simple statement opened a conversational can of worms.
The subject matter of fish compelled one guest to announce, “Whales are more closely related to wolves than any other fish in the sea.”
Puzzled, my director offered comparisons between whales and dolphins, different breeds, land-to-land animals, all unsuccessfully, with no added clarity. She started to become frustrated in our inability to pair a wolf with a sea creature.
She and her companions eventually left in a bit of a huff. Mammals, man.
Like previously mentioned, gallery work can become emotionally volatile at times. All involved have a high level of commitment and expectation.
In one particular instance, I was completing paperwork on a rainy Friday when things took a dramatic turn. The visiting client had heavy, negative emotional energy toward both me and the space, and in a fit of uncontrolled frustration, the guest threw a bag of Sandy’s donuts in my face.
The flailing pastries narrowly missed me and my bowl of noodles. Had the hurled object been more messy or dangerous, or if my dinner had been ruined, I would probably find this scene less cynically comical.
Clearly, I’m not happy with having angry visitors or food thrown at me, but the absurdity of the scenario from an outside perspective is darkly funny.
Galleries should function in many ways, as sanctuaries or refuges for those who attach themselves to it. It’s a romantic thing to observe, and has no limitation to the ways in which it can be carried out.
An unknown, yet regular, drunk woman frequently comes by asking for wine or cigarettes. She represents a wide variety of surprise visitors who are generally docile with simple requests.
She comes in, asks for booze, and I tactfully turn her down. She politely – and incoherently – offers a few words about the art. Next she comes nearer to the chair that I’m seated in, gives me knuckles and leaves with a proud,
“God bless America; God bless the artists.”