Woof Woof’s Guide to Art Gallery Etiquette

With Tips from Jessica Dawson and Rocky, canine curator of the first ever US art show for dogs

When Woof Woof went to an art exhibit, he was more interested in greeting every gallery visitor than in the art work, but now I know why – none of the art work was at his eye level. I never would have thought about that until I interviewed Jessica Dawson, curator for Dogumenta. She’s an art critic, who’s been taking her dog Rocky to art galleries for years.

How do you know if your dog is interested in the art work?

Rocky may yawn with disinterest, turn away, or look intently. He’s a bit prudish and turns away from work that’s of a more risqué nature. She points to pieces to get his opinion. And with Dogumenta, he really is not only helping to pick the pieces but working with the artists as they create their work. If he turns away, they know he’s displeased. While the canine color palate is yellow, blue and gray, they can still appreciate texture and other aspects of art.

Is there gallery etiquette every dog and dog owner should know?

Always be respectful. Your dog can’t bark inside galleries and should remain on leash. If your dog is small enough, always carry him or her in your arms. It’s a good sign for the gallery that you’re in charge of your pup. It also gives your dog the view needed to appreciate the art work. However, in Dogumenta, art work will be closer to the ground, so it’s at proper eye level.

How common is it for galleries to let dogs in?

Very common. Rocky’s rarely had a problem. Galleries in New York, DC and LA are very dog friendly. The only time you should call ahead is if you are travelling a significant distance and there aren’t alternate galleries nearby. You also may not be able to bring your dog to a gallery if they have pieces on loan from a museum. Their loan contract may state no dogs on property during exhibits, just like museum rules.

How can a dog prepare for their next gallery experience?

Socialize. Socialize. Socialize. Take your dog to public places such as restaurants with outdoor seating and see how they behave. The more socialized your dog is, the more they’ll be ready for the art scene. Then start art exploration with outdoor exhibits such as going to see local statutes and monuments. You can work up to galleries and even learn from your dog’s raw opinion that isn’t skewed by current art trends. When he or she looks intently at a piece you may find something special about it you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

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