Art gallery etiquette: how to keep it classy
The unspoken rules
Keep it down
Unless it's some sort of pumped-up party within the gallery, talking loudly in a gallery can be frowned upon. Talking loudly while criticising the art that's on display is catastrophic. The thing about art galleries is that its rather spacious build-up not only serves as a viewing space for artwork - it also seems to be a perfect way for echoes to bounce around. Thus, you never know who is listening to your conversation. As the saying goes, if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all... until you leave the gallery, at least.
Personal space extends to the distance between you and your fellow art gallery goers, as well as the space between you and the art. Unless you're explicitly told to touch the art as part of the exhibition, you're expected to refrain from touching any of the artworks on exhibit. That said, when you're at the viewing space of the artwork, don't linger or strike a lengthy conversation while standing in front of an art piece. Let other people have their moment with the art, otherwise you may encounter another gallery don't, that is barging in front of other people to view the art.
Abusing the open bar or buffet
There are two things that may come out of this. It's either you will appear to be a glutton or a freeloader, or you may simply get a little too drunk for comfort. And while there's food and drinks around, try to keep it all away from the art on display. It's probably not the best idea to spill drinks or place empty plates, glasses or tissues anywhere near the artwork, such as on pedestals and the like.
Selling your own artwork
Unless you're the artist whose work is being featured for the night, it's regarded in poor taste for other visiting artists to try to sell themselves at another artist's exhibition. This apparently happens mostly at openings, where the "important" people are all present at one place. It's tempting to approach them for your own benefit, but you probably wouldn't like it if someone else tried to steal your thunder at your art show opening. Pick another time to showcase your work to the gallery owner or dealer.
Keep the conversations brief during the opening
Save the lengthy discussions for a less busy time. An opening is for the featured artist, gallery owner or dealer to network and ultimately sell the artwork that's on display. There's nothing wrong with congratulating them or striking a conversation with them, but keep it short and sweet so that they may meet and greet as many visitors as possible.