Visiting an Art Gallery

You want to visit a gallery, and you might want to meet the artist.
Can you just walk in the door anytime to make your purchase?

Collectors enjoy meeting artists, and many artists also enjoy talking with collectors. This is one of the primary reasons for gallery receptions (really it’s not the wine). Art Receptions come in many forms so let’s explore some differences in the terminology used by the art community in general and specifically in the Sacramento area.

Artist Reception is usually a 2-4 hour event in which the artist(s) will be present to meet the public and enjoy light refreshments. Work is generally for sale and the event may include a book signing as appropriate. This type of reception can take place at any time during the exhibition run.

Opening Reception usually implies and event on the first day (or two) of an exhibition. While normally including refreshments it may not include the artist(s) attending. Sometimes these are casual events done in the afternoon.

Second Saturday Reception has been a Sacramento tradition for over 25 years (click here to learn the history of Second Saturday), and many other cities have similar events on recurring days each month. It is a citywide art reception involving numerous galleries, giving collectors the opportunity to visit more than one gallery in an evening. These receptions vary in format and length. Some galleries serve adult beverages in real glasses and include light snacks, while some galleries just extend their regular Saturday hours. In both cases the artist(s) may or may not attend.

NOTE: Opening Receptions and Artist Receptions can coincide with Second Saturday. Get a reservation if you plan on hitting your favorite restaurant on this night. Downtown, Midtown, and East Sac become pretty busy each Second Saturday. Though I have not dated in this century, Second Saturday is date night for many couples as well as a nice ice breaker for singles. It’s a nice excuse to dress up a bit when visiting an art gallery.

Private Reception is usually an invitation only event and is aimed at bringing the artist together with serious collectors. Many galleries hold these reception a few times a year. You will want to request to be included on the gallery’s mailing list for these special events. These receptions are a bit more formal and are generally geared to adults only. They may require an RSVP.

Closing Reception is a reception done on the last day of the show, and not every gallery does them. Typically used for bigger exhibitions, it traditionally includes the artist(s) and many times is by invitation only. It is the last opportunity to see/purchase works. These may include refreshments and entertainment as well.

Open Studio is a term for a temporary exhibition/sale held in the artist’s studio. This may be done during a weekend (Sacramento hosts an annual Open Studios through the Verge) or may be a more formal private party hosted by the artist and their gallery at the artist’s studio or home. Some artists prefer not to exhibit regularly, or are not represented by a gallery and will open their studios to select buyers by appointment or through an open studio event. Open Studios is a great way to acquire small works or drawings and studies.

On a general note, most receptions are free and include complementary beverages. Museums may charge regular admission and some non- profit galleries may ask for a nominal charge for refreshments. Commercial galleries do not charge for refreshments in Sacramento – though you may see a tip jar for the person running the bar. Children should be watched AT ALL TIMES – as most galleries are not kid proof. Many galleries also welcome well behaved dogs on a leash but it always best to ask.

Become involved with your favorite artists and their galleries by attending these events. They are a great way to educate yourself about the art. Many of these are great family events and represent a learning opportunity, but I highly recommend you preview the show in-person or online before bringing younger children. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the gallery staff, and leave your email address in the guest book (usually located near the door) so you can be included on gallery mailers.