Art on theWanderlister+ by Natasha Kaye Whiffin
It is an unwritten rule that within the confines of a gallery’s white walls, a certain code of conduct is expected. Although more commonly seen in the rule books of most museums, gallery etiquette has acquired its own set of parameters, whereby visitors are informed about the manner in which they should appreciate art.
The more relaxed and somewhat festive air of an art fair should be no exception to this rule and on the eve of the much anticipated fifth edition of the Hong Kong International Art Fair with ART HK12, I ask… how does the general public or visitor go about viewing and appreciating works of art? Should there be rules? What is art fair etiquette?
Let us first review the definition of gallery etiquette. Rules include, that common command “Please do not touch the work” (unless of course the work calls for public participation). Of course, voices are expected to be kept low, not rising above a whisper, so as not to disturb or interrupt the train of thought of the other visitors. Then of course there is one of the most important and enforced rules, “Please, no photography!”. I personally am biased in favour of this one and consider photography to be somewhat of a sin when viewing works of art. Its an obstruction in the process, a work of art seen first down the barrel of a lens, is not a true introduction.
What you see on your computer screen at home on the sofa afterwards is not a true image or representation of the work either. You must dedicate your time in the consideration of what you see before you in that first instance, only then should souvenir photographs be taken as form of documentation of your experience.
Visitor photographing sculpture by Anish Kapoor at ARTHK11
Last year it was of common practice during the Hong Kong International Art Fair for most public viewers who were visiting to first look through the camera lens at what was on display. The work was then immediately seen on the preview screen of a digital camera and then if they were on their phone, as many were, it was tweeted, facebooked and or put on ren ren for all the world to see (Instagram hadn’t quite taken of yet, but I’m sure it would have been flooded with images almost instantaneously ).
Only after this technological flurry of activity, did they then look up to actually view the work for what it was. I am unsure if the camera and social networking culture here in Hong Kong played a role in this, or if the lack of museum infrastructure failed to prepare the public for what they were about to see, but I found myself bewildered by this technology-facilitated lack of art viewing etiquette. I thought everyone knew the unspoken rules. Please understand, I am not suggesting that Hong Kong’s public are culturally stunted towards art in general, on the contrary, I am proud of Hong Kong’s new found art oasis and its rapid and exponential rise. Our city has progressed from solely an international economic hub to now also, a hive of art and culture - and the rest of the world is starting to sit up and take notice.
It is a result of this that this year’s public programming at the fair reflects just that evolution, a culturally rich structured collaboration with some of Hong Kong finest leading cultural and educational institutions, such as the fairs educational partner Asia Art Archive, local trailblazers Para/site art space and the in the making, M+ (WKCD). Between them, a wealth of stimulating and engaging programming will be on offer, with an array of happenings in the form of lectures, tours and public art interventions to enrich the mind on the matter of contemporary art today.
Couple gaze at chinese artist Lui Wei’s installation at ARTHK11
Let this be said, I have no quarrel with the lady whom first stepped on the installation to photograph it, nor do I have choice words for the man whom first turned his back on the Picasso only to pose for a portrait by its side. I simple propose that those wrongs be amended in their attendance of this year’s outstanding public programming initiatives. So, in the midst of anticipation leading up to the Hong Kong Art Fair, I implore and attempt to appeal to the masses to acquire a sense of awareness for art fair etiquette: Leave your cameras at home, come with you minds at rest and experience the works first with your own eyes. It will be worth it.
+ Para/Site x theWanderlister+ Asia ART HK12 Art and Champers Giveaway
From now Monday, May 7th to Friday, May 11th, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “I want ART HK12 Tickets Now!”. You and a friend will get to tour the major galleries at ART HK12 with us over glasses of Veuve Champagne on Saturday, May 19th. Three (3) Pairs of Tickets in total to be given away. You can only have one entry per name/email.
This intimate and personal tour will be conducted by our friends at Para/Site Art Space. For more information on the Para/Site, ‘Art Walks’ please click this link.
Please dont forget to also write down your name, email, and phone number of contact so we can message you immediately by next weekend if you’ve won! Simple as that! Hurry email us now!
Natasha Kaye Whiffin is Hong Kong born, former Londoner specialising in contemporary art, culture and art markets. With a BA in Photography from London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, she is currently working with a Hong Kong based contemporary art gallery and is an active viewer of art in its many forms. Website: www.natashawhiffin.com / Twitter: @nwhiffin / email@example.com