Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's a Swiss Thing

It’s a beautiful fall day, the warm sun dappled the cobblestone road. Shadows of cornices and awnings create angular shapes along the sidewalk as we journey towards the gallery. The sites look familiar and the stores look like they haven’t changed. Each window is carefully decorated modestly to show their wares. All this familiarity and I still can’t figure out what train stop is ours. “There it is.” I quickly press the stop button with my finger. The train passes the gallery with its windows covered to hide the upcoming exhibit. We’ll get off at the next stop.

Here it is, Gallerie I.D., we stand in front of the gallery for my fourth solo show, windows covered, wondering if my artwork made the long voyage. The covering of the windows is a European thing. In the states I would have been freaking out, exclaiming, “What do you mean there are no pre sales?!” but this is routine and I’ve experienced it before so I’m not worried. There are no pre-sales, no political jockeying certain clients selecting that ultimate piece. The windows are covered. The doors are locked. If you want to see the art or, better yet, purchase it, be there at 6:00 when the doors open.

Sure enough like the accuracy of a good Swiss watch, there is a queue outside the door at five minutes to six. Precisely at 6 o’clock the doors open. The windows are unveiled and clients, collectors and the curious work their way into the room. I on the other hand show up twenty minutes after because my stomach is in knots. What if nobody shows up? What if nobody likes my new work? What wine am I going to have with dinner, red or white? Why did I take four years of Spanish in high school instead of French? My fears end as I embark at the right train stop and enter the gallery to see at least thirty people inside. I scan the walls and the labels placed to the bottom right of every painting for red dots. More anxiety fades away as I glance at a few red dots in the main room. I say “ Bon Jour” shake hands and greet people with the traditional three kisses. A little extensive but it’s a nice cultural difference. It goes as follows: place your hand on their shoulder then go cheek-to-cheek, go to the other side cheek-to-cheek, then back to the first cheek, step away and smile.

I can’t put my finger on it but all these things seem to work. Like clock work the doors are closed at 8:00pm. The previous collectors and new collectors head back home. As tradition has it, we go out to dinner; the gallery owner, some clients, my wife, and I. Dinner is ordered and there is wine, luckily I don’t have to make the decision of red or white.  I don’t speak French so it is ordered for me. We eat, we chat, and we laugh. We say good-bye: cheek-to-cheek, other side cheek-to-cheek, back to the start cheek-to-cheek. 


  1. Jeff, what a candid and fun post. So happy for you and thank you for this!

  2. @ Lynette - Thank you, i'm glad you liked it.

  3. Next year greet them with "Bon soir". That's the evening greeting. Sales will even be better :)