Howard L. Rehs is a longstanding dealer in 19th Century art whose booth can be seen at many of the country’s art fairs. Here’s more of his hard-won wisdom on proper comportment:
In two of my previous posts I covered many things one should not do, or say, to a dealer when visiting a show … and to be honest, I thought I had actually covered them all. Well, during our recent show in Baltimore I realized that I left out three fairly important recommendations; as well as one general excuse and one I want to revisit:
DO NOT TOUCH THE ARTWORK! Yes, at the recent show I was amazed, and shocked, as I watched a man bend down to look at a painting and proceed to run his fingers across the entire canvas. Let me say this: the paintings in a dealer’s booth are their property; and unless they give you permission to touch them, DON’T! Personally, I do not want to see your fingers on my paintings – so until you own it, please do not touch it! Not only is it inappropriate, but if you happen to damage the piece, are you ready to write a check?
Photography – While some dealers do not mind people taking photos of their works, others do. Do not assume that you can walk into someone’s booth and photograph the works on display. It is important to ask before you start snapping away. In addition, if they do give you permission, make it quick. I normally have no problem with people photographing our works – though I often wonder what they are going to do with the images. At the recent show in Baltimore a woman stopped by our booth and asked if she could photograph one of our works … I said: no problem. Well the next thing I know, 5 women are standing in our booth (blocking a large section of the entrance) taking dozens and dozens of photos … and they were standing there for 4 or 5 minutes. As I have stated before, dealers participate in shows in order to sell their works … not to create a photo-op. And if that dealer is kind enough to let you photograph a work, please make it quick!
Children – Before I get into this one, please keep in mind that I love kids and have some of my own. However, it is really important when visiting an art/antique show that you keep a tight hold on your youngsters. Many times I have watched a toddler start running for a painting that is sitting on the floor, only to be scooped up moments before impact. In addition, try not to let your kids bring toys that they may throw or swing – I have seen kids playing with yo-yos or dragging their favorite toy behind them on a long string. I can tell you that is a recipe for disaster … and maybe an unwanted expense.
Phones – I did touch on this in my first article, but I want to revisit it. It is just rude to walk into a dealer’s booth, sit down in their chair, or at their desk (which someone did in Baltimore), and start making calls on a cell phone. This is not your office or home – it is ours. In addition, I do not want to overhear intimate details of your or your friend’s personal life; especially in such a confined space. If you really need to talk on your phone, find a more public space.
AND … I don’t have a house for a frame like that. A rarely used excuse, but one I did hear in Baltimore. Now just in case anyone else wants to try it please note: we are always happy to either change a frame, or we can sell you the painting without one!