10 Types of People You See at Art Fairs

At art week, people-watching is its own art!
by JUNK
Arty-FartyJanuary 24, 2019
Hey, it’s Art Week! So you should go out and look at art. Or, if that doesn’t interest you, go out and look at the people who are looking at art because they are really so weird and wonderful. Here are some of our favourite types to spot.

The W.W.W.
(Woke White Woman)

This is the white woman who travels around the world with her high-flying, high-paid, but somewhat invisible husband. Her visa status means she can’t actually work, but she needs fulfilment, you see, which is why she becomes so actively involved in the social milieu of whichever city she finds herself in. Because she’s all about the community, darlings! You can never hold her privilege against her, because, see? She’s all about giving it back.

To show her wokeness, she pretty much wears Asian designers, but for extra-special occasions like this one, she will bust out in what we call full “tropicalia”… Because nothing says “I’ve assimilated into this country so well” like a white woman wearing ethnicwear! Cheongsam? Batik? A hand-embroidered kurti? Monk-blessed prayer beads? She’s always in the right costume for the cause.

The Asian Bohemian
There is something nostalgic about these men (invariably, they are men) with their straggly long hair and/or wispy facial hair. They are artists or teachers (actually, usually both), who are approaching middle age but haven’t quite reached it yet.

Thanks to their limbo-like status between young and over-the-hill, they have some of the gravitas of age and experience, but also the fun and charisma of their original rocker/Rastafarian/hippie roots. See the contrasting cues of their button-down shirts straining ever so slightly over early-stage middle-aged spread, and their hats (odd-fitting fedoras and newsboy caps preferred).

Variants include: Japanese, Javanese, Thai, and more.

China Rich Wives
These people aren’t really here to look at art, just here to hiao. They’re easy to spot because they’re the only ones who will come to the opening nights and previews really DRESSED UP in illusion lace, full-length gowns, and stiletto heels. Because while most other people are here to do some kind of work, they’re just here for a night out, and to show off their riches. On occasion, they miiiiight approach a gallerist to ask “这有别的颜色吗?”* – because what is life if you can’t get your art to match your Fendi rug?

*[Translation: “Does this come in other colours?”]

Starving Non-Artists
Fun fact: the hungriest-looking people at art fairs are usually NOT the artists themselves. They’re more like art students or design workers who are here for inspiration, research, or – if they’re especially hungry – networking. They roam around in groups of three or more, and are drawn to the free canapes like bees to honey. Their motto: “Financially poor, spiritually rich”. Spot them skulking around with their ironic tote bags, vintage Peninsula Plaza glasses, wide-legged pants, and scuffed sneakers. Bonus points if they’re carrying around a notebook… just in case inspiration strikes!

The Funky Specs Clan
Just as funky specs come in all shapes and sizes, members of the Funky Specs Clan are really diverse. Some are architects, some are civil servants, teachers, editors, housewives, businessmen… Some are Asian, some are Western… Some come with funky hair, some with funky clothes, some with funky shoes, some with a funky smell… But their defining feature is always the same. Always, always, always, always, something about them screams, “I just looooove to be different! Look at me! Aren’t I funky?”

Yes lah, yes lah.

Old Money, Young(ish) Asians
Don’t let those Birkin bags and Celine pants fool you! Unlike the China Rich Wives, some of these moneyed mavens are legitimately serious about art. Yes, she’s a socialite, but she’s also got a Wharton degree and her own thriving SME, okay? Yes, it’s all old family money, but she’s all new, 21st century globalised Asian!

And we say young-ish because… chances are she’s not thaaat young, but no one will never know, because thanks to her very good doctor, she will never look anything other than 33. Nevertheless, she’s got spending power, cultural capital, and, most of all, some measure of taste. So watch her walk into the room and give all the gallerists the real ooh-ah-ah sensation.

The Galleristas
Speaking of… these ubiquitous women are here to remind you that this isn’t just a scene, it’s a business. They’re the ones who put the “industry” in “art industry” by standing around casually (but hopefully) in their booths, business cards and guest books at the ready.

They typically wear their hair in low maintenance styles like a shoulder-length bob, or just long and simple. They look put together, but definitely not in an overwhelming kind of way, because they are here to sell, not to be seen. But most of all you can tell who they are by the earnest, yet slightly calculative look they have in their eyes. Have money? Here to buy art? No? Then get out of the way.

“Just Here for Drinks”
In the eyes of the galleristas, these ones are really the worst.
(But don’t they know that actually… everyone is just here for the drinks?)

Token White Men
In Singapore, suits are for weddings and really important work meetings. For everything else, including funerals, the shirt-and-slacks combo will suffice. So then – why wear a sportcoat? Why wear a sportcoat with chinos? Why wear a sportcoat with chinos and… a neckerchief? The only logical answer is so that you can say, with sartorial smugness, “I’M WHITE”. Therefore, if you want to look for Token White Men, just look for the ones in a sportcoat. That’s all.

People Who Actually Come to Look at Art
No agenda. No money. Nothing to do on the weekend. So come to look at art, lah!

Singapore Art Week
19 to 29 January 2019
Various locations
artweek.sg

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