With all of the events and openings this week, we wanted to give some thought to the social aspects, which play an important role in these spaces, whether you’re the host, exhibitor, visitor, or bartender. Those encounters are humorously illustrated by artist Martin Skauen in work from his exhibition Small Talk, which was on view at Frankfurt am Main earlier this year, and accompanied with text by David de Jong.


Martin Skauen, Small Talk, 2018, digital print on hahnemühle paper, Edition of 20 | 80 x 63 cm


Being able to engage in small talk is an essential trait to have all around the world. It is a way to socialize, placate friends, pacify enemies, and avoid or create awkward situations. Quite simply, it gets us through the day.

But nowhere is small talk more important than in the art world, a bubble that runs on bullshit and (perceived) beauty and / or ugliness. Where inflated egos and prices go hand in hand. Where artists cower to gallerists and gallerists cower to artists. Where billionaires rule the market.

The art of small talk is especially crucial at art fairs and gallery openings. Hey, you are probably at one while reading this! How does one get through an art opening? Running in to that annoying critic, that lecherous gallerist, that overpraised artist, that horrible ex, that fucking frenemy you want to avoid at all costs? Perhaps you don’t know anyone, and would like to talk with that beautiful brunette standing next to that mediocre painting? Maybe you don’t know anyone, and don’t want to talk to anybody, but then that elderly lady suddenly starts blabbing away at you. The solution for all of the above, to engage or get away? Small talk!

One can go as far as saying that small talk is an art form in itself. Perhaps one of the reasons why New York is an epicenter of the art world. Its where the biggest schmoozers and (with) the most money converge with the most (socially) ambitious artists. Hey, there is a likely correlation between being a good schmoozer and making shitloads of money, right? Then again, there are a whole lot of artists and galleries in Berlin, an equal amount of small talk, but no money! So, in the case of Berlin, it is an inverse correlation. It is small talk with lesser means and consequences.

Whatever one’s circumstances may be, most people still come to art openings for the free alcohol. And where does free booze lead to? Exactly, small talk, and sex. Let’s not forget about sex. And there we have it. Small talk makes the world go ’round.

“All talk is small talk,” quote ascribed to one Marty Rubin.

Text by David de Jong

Installation images from Martin Skauen: Small Talk, at Frankfurt am Main, 2018. Photos by TrevorLloyd.
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