What’s Wrong With Art? Appointment Only Exhibitions

Tabish Khan loves art and visits hundreds of exhibitions a year. But every now and then he comes across something in the art world that doesn’t meet his approval.

With gallery spaces proving to be at a premium, artists and galleries are having to be more inventive with where they display their art — I’ve seen exhibitions in living rooms, a hairdressers and even the back of a van.

More orthodox spaces tend to be cafes and private members clubs. These are clearly functional buildings so viewing conditions can often be tricky when they are in use, but it’s still a space that can display art and we could always use more of those.

With more art being shown in unorthodox spaces, it has led to more appointment only exhibitions whereby you have to book in to see the art. Normally this is either to ensure the space is available and not in use for a private function, or so that a curator or the artist can be there to show you around.

This is all well and good if you’re a serious collector of the artist as you’ll book in a slot. However, what this eliminates is any chance of people stumbling across a great exhibition and most people who aren’t sure whether they will like the work or not are likely to err on the side of not going.

This all goes against my strong belief that art should be as accessible as possible. In my mind an appointment only exhibition is more a private sales room than an actual exhibition. The only chance where people can come see it freely is usually at the private view, which is inevitably too busy to see any art at all.

It wouldn’t be realistic to expect these spaces to be open the same hours that a gallery keeps its doors open, but an effective option is to have ‘open days’ when the artist / curator will be in residence so visitors may drop in. This should be on a weekend or an evening as most people have a weekday job — I once came across a space that was only open on Tuesdays, it may as well have been closed as far as I was concerned.

Having open days would really help make these exhibitions accessible while still allowing artists to use unique spaces to display their work.

For more in this series, see my thoughts on Artificial Intelligence replacing artistsEveryone’s a CriticPhoto LondonThe Turner Prize, Art for art’s sakeConceptual art is complicatedCondoHow performance art is presented in museumsFrieze week floozies, too much respect for an artist’s legacyopinions not being welcomean exhibition across three countriestackling race and gender in artartist-curatorsart fair hypetop 5s and top 10sour political art is terriblegap left by Brian Sewellhow art never learned from the Simpsonswhy artspeak won’t dieso-called reviewsbad reviews are bad for business, the $179m dollar headlineart fairs appealing to the massesfalse opening hourssize matters and what’s wrong with video art.

About Tabish Khan

Art Critic for both FAD and Londonist. See as many exhibitions as possible and write reviews, opinion pieces and a weekly top 5 for FAD.