Looking for something fun to do on Friday nights? Hit the art galleries! Friday nights are big nights for openings, especially the first Friday of the month. Typically, they are from 6-8pm, so you can still do something else after, or get a good night’s sleep—whichever you prefer.
Openings are basically big parties. There’s sure to be a crowd, odds are you can meet the artist(s), and at the very least you’ll get a free drink. If you miss the opening, no big deal – shows typically run anywhere from two days to a month. Visit during normal gallery hours when you can view the work in more serene conditions and possibly discuss the work with the curator.
The best nights are when there are so many openings that you have to make a plan of attack in order to see them all.
Want to know the best way to get in the loop on local art openings? Elizabeth Alley, whose “Two Stories of Iceland” is currently on display at Crosstown Arts, says that The Memphis Flyer has always been good about listing art openings, but these days she primarily uses Facebook. “I make sure to follow the ‘main’ galleries in town – L Ross, David Lusk, Jay Etkin, Crosstown Arts, Orange Mound Gallery, plus schools – U of M has two galleries, and CBU, Rhodes, and MCA all have galleries,” she says.
Alex Paulus, another local artist, says, “The best places to go are David Lusk, Crosstown Arts, and Tops. I think those are the 3 best galleries in Memphis right now. They’re showing really interesting work.”
Tops is located in the basement of the Jack Robinson Gallery and has an ancillary gallery in the Madison Avenue Pocket Park. While the artists who show there are not always local, curator Matt Ducklo (who is also a celebrated photographer) chooses unique and cutting edge contemporary work to highlight. Right now, you can see La Boheme featuring the multi-media art of Motoko Fukuyama. The gallery is only open on Saturdays from 1-6pm, but you can view her work in the park gallery 24/7.
Alley believes that it’s important for both artists and non-artists to go to shows. “If you are an artist, it is important to go to see what other artists are up to. There is a lot to learn from seeing a gallery show – are there local trends? How is this artist choosing to display their sculpture/drawing/installation? It is also a great way to meet other artists – there are so many artists in town that I know because I met them at an art opening,” she says.
If you are not an artist, Alleys says it is important to go to show your support for artists and local art. “And you can learn things and meet artists, too! Ideally you will buy something, plus there is usually free wine,” she says.
Crosstown Arts gets the best snack award. “The last show I went to there had bacon wrapped dates and potato skins!” exclaims Paulus. In terms of art, he offers an important etiquette tip: “Don’t touch the art, unless you are specifically instructed to do so by the artist.”
Here’s Alley’s primer on what to do once you are there:
Enter the gallery, do a quick survey of the room, then choose a place to start. Look at the art, but don’t fret about studying it (art openings are for socializing as much as they are for learning something, and often people are standing in the way of the art anyway). Make your way to the wine, relax, look at the price list. Drink more wine, buy something.
Buying local art is a great investment. Often, galleries will do payment plans so don’t be shy if there’s something that you really love but cannot afford all at once. Most galleries do get a percentage of the selling price. However, artists who show at Crosstown Arts keep 100% of their proceeds.
Alley also encourages visitors to say something to the artist if they see them. “We want to hear from you and part of our job requirement is to be able to talk about our art,” she says.
Many galleries like Lusk and L Ross will schedule artist talks with the artists currently on display, so you can hear even more about their work. These talks are generally the second Saturday after the opening, but that can vary.
Familiarize yourself with the following galleries, follow them on Facebook, and watch your Fridays fill up!