Features / Writing

Opening Night: A playful poke at the private views we love to hate

First published in Printed Pages Spring 2015

Words by

James Cartwright

Thursday night’s hot ticket is this edgy little opening down on that square in the hip part of town, between the agency that makes the witty ads for car brands and that vegetarian bistro-thing.

There’s no actual ticket of course. It’s a private view – you and everyone else with cultural aspirations are jostling to get a foot in the door. But it’s important to be seen.

So here you are, sweating a little from the scrum at the door, hopping self-consciously from side to side trying to catch the attention of the guy opening beers. He doesn’t give a shit about getting you one in a hurry. These drinks are free buddy and he’s not even getting paid to be here. He probably thinks you’re like the ropey bloke in the suit to your left who’s thirstily seeing off his third Heineken and already has his fat little hands clutching his fourth. Philistine! Why’s he even here? Not for the art. Nobody in a tatty-looking Marks & Spencer suit knows the first thing about… Wait, what is this show?

“It’s a typographic exploration of any number of hypothetical worlds in which my fonts might be used in commerce, branding, for artistic purposes or simply as signage,” the artist/designer/multidisciplinary practitioner is saying to a bespectacled journalist who’s keen to make it known he understands. “Yes of course, and when did you realise that you had such an interest in experimental typography?”

The kerning on these things is awful. This mug doesn’t know the first thing about type. Still, he’s the one with the solo show, and this place is packed! Better pull your finger out and put some more effort into your side projects. Those modernist movie posters in the style of Penguin Classics you did last year didn’t really work out.

Warm beers in hand you turn tail and try not to catch the eye of two pristine PR girls you once had brunch with in town – something about a new range of women’s quilted trousers all embroidered by famous street artists. They’ve seen you already though and sashay forward, all immaculate blonde hair and pristine lipstick puckered to plant a double kiss on you, ignoring the clammy hand you’ve extended for them to shake. They smell amazing and bear no trace of the 30 degree heat in this art sauna. Maybe PR girls don’t sweat?

“Isn’t Marek’s work amazing?” one of them’s asking. “This is his first show in the capital. He’s come all the way from Warsaw to hang it himself.” “Incredible stuff,” says the other. “He’s sooooooo talented.” If you stick around any longer they’re going to ask if you want to meet him. You don’t.

Thursdays are always like this; back to a white gallery wall, sluicing down free continental lagers and trying to work out the quickest way to the front door. Every time you think this is your last one you’re here again the next week with the same crowd, puzzling over a new show and griping about the temperature of the booze. Still, the people are beautiful, the drinks are free and maybe one day you’ll understand what the work on the walls means. Christ this is the good life!