‘PRIVATE VIEW’ or ‘VERNISSAGE’.
These two events are in fact very much the same thing. They can be treasured highlights in an artist’s life.
In English the term ‘Private View’ is understood to indicate a special occasion at an art exhibition where guests are invited to see the artwork on display. Often this is a preview opportunity for artists, dealers, family, friends, and collectors all to meet each other and see the show before anyone else.
Vernissage is a term more commonly used elsewhere. In Sweden for instance it can be a day, usually a Sunday once a month, when all the local art galleries open at the same time. Refreshments would be available and the roads free of other busy shoppers. This occasion encourages art enthusiasts to visit more than one art show and be specially treated everywhere.
The term ‘Vernissage’ actually translates to mean varnishing day. There used to be a special occasion the day before a Royal Academy Exhibition where the artists could access their work in situ and do final touches or varnishing before the show. This developed into an invite only opportunity for other guests to meet the artists and see their latest work.
Some exhibiting artists, like Turner, could make startling last minute adjustments to the artwork. Turner added things that made a big difference after he had seen what his competitors were showing. It meant that viewers to the show should not touch the wet-paint art for a few days after the opening.
What are the benefits?
A private view provides a win-win opportunity.
Except of course the host is expected to provide the wine and nibbles. Plus they have to decide why do this, how many to invite, how to invite, when, and who.
Artists get the feedback, which is extremely valuable to their creative selves.
Dealers can engage with new potential buyers who are already fans of the artwork.
Family and friends meet each other and enjoy the occasion. This can do good things for the artist’s prestige in their closest social groups.
The gallery or venue owner might be looking for the first sales of the show.
And collectors can see and snaffle up special new work, and any bargains on show, before the general public get a chance to compete.
How to invite, how many, and when?
An e-mail shout out to a big list might be the usual way nowadays. A handwritten private view invitation gets better results. A phone call even better.
Often the artist can gain prestige points even if the guests cannot attend. So over-inviting can be a good thing. An empty private view would not impress anybody who did turn up.
The evening before the opening is a favourite time. But there are some occasions where a private gathering could be during the show to coincide with other events. These can be called midissage, or even finissage if held at the end.
The invitation needs to be sent in good time but not too early. A reminder is much easier now with e-mail.
Who will be on a private view guest list might depend on the size of the venue. The artist will have one list and the host might have another. They both want their own list to grow so they hope to gain more fans from each other.
Previous buyers of the artist work are the top priority. These collectors will be honoured and feted because they have already shown that they like the venue or artwork like this.
Family and friends of the artist will probably be less likely to become customers but will be impressed and thankful to be included as a guest. They will be included because they will be sure to attend and be enthusiastic about the work on show. We hope.
Dealers and other business contacts might also become more aware of the artist’s business or commercial sense. Other trade contacts could be interested in seeing the latest artwork from the artist, or group of artists, for other business development. Publishing, licensing, or commissioning are examples.
A private view or vernissage is special. If you get an invitation, please come.