Schmoozing (verb) –
” the act of mingling, socializing, or kissing ass in or at an event that you may feel less than comfortable. It is more art than science but can be learned.”
The ancient art of the schmooze is one that dates back to… well historically, anywhere with six or more people and alcohol. Unlike the lost art of Towel Origami (yes, that existed) it is alive and kicking. Last week I found myself in a common situation in the art world: gallery opening night. There I was, a non-German speaker who had recently recovered the ability to walk, about to plunge into full schmoozing mode in Zurich along with her trusty friend, Ben the Englishman. We were hydrated, ready for the sprint, dressed to blend and with a list of possible conversation topics scribbled on the palm of our hands (kidding). Anyway it got me thinking. Schmoozing, specially art-related schmoozing is an art! It has to be. So here it is, a list of the three essentials of art schmoozing. We, Ben the Englishman and I, came up with it as we schmoozed. Our gift to you. You’re welcome.
1. Your clothes say EVERYTHING about you, so dress ‘well’. You’re walking into a pack of artsys, you can bet your mother you’ll be judged. You have to dress not like going-to-church-well or cocktail party well but find a midway so that people remember you not as the clown but as someone to be taken halfway seriously. No ten-inch heels needed ladies, no ties or bow ties guys – it’s like a cry out for attention. A blazer says ‘collector’, dirty sneakers say ‘loves art yet not a buyer’. What I do give you full permission to abuse is colored socks. It’s part of the art uniform. Talk about judging a book by it’s cover – this is 100% the situation here.
2. Actually look at the artwork and have an opinion about it so that when half way through the schmoozing you meet the gallery director you have something, anything remotely astute to say. This might seam like such a stupid, obvious bullet point but trust me, there is nothing more obvious than asking someone what they thought of the show and having to wait for 30 seconds while the careless creature scans the room to find any substantial contribution.
3. Lastly – have the balls the talk to people! Remember, that is what schmoozing is. If you’re not good at light conversation, practice talking to wall or to your dog. If you’re not good at improvisation, research the artist whose exhibition you’re going to see and then by all means my friend, scribble those topics of conversation on your hand! Better that than nothing. Chug a few more glasses of wine, it’s your warm up baby! Relax, breathe, stretch and… you’re schmoozing! Just like riding a bike.
God speed, my friends.
Travel changes lives & Art prolongs it.
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Image: Manet, “Bar at the Folies-Bergere”, 1882.