There was a time when art gallery openings typically featured a cubed cheese platter and the sort of cheap wine that made even die-hard red wine drinkers switch to white for the night. (The chill helped mask the unpleasantness). One can credit the evolution at L.A. art openings to those early, fat wallet Getty Museum days, when the ingestibles budget for even the smallest gallery opening far exceeded most local museums' party expenses for an entire year. (Full Disclosure: Pre-journalism, this writer worked for various museums including the Getty.)
Local gallery owners say the current food — and food truck — culture has been the true catalyst for upping the edibles ante. “Things are definitely leaning more towards Belgian beer and brie than cubed cheese these days,” says Deb Klowden Mann, co-owner of Gallery KM in Santa Monica.
That doesn't mean figuring out what, or even whether, to serve gallery hoppers has gotten any easier. “I always struggle with whether to serve anything at all,” says Klowden Mann, adding that she nonetheless always offers food (and yes, once arranged for a food truck to park outside of a past exhibition).
“Food just doesn't fit the reason people are really here, for an art opening.” Or, perhaps, the reason they claim to be there. “But so many people tell me they plan gallery hopping around town knowing they can get some vittles that I feel like I'd honestly have to send out a press release telling people I wasn't serving food anymore,” jokes Klowden Mann.
She happily leaves the edible side of the equation to her mother, gallery co-owner and artist Pat Klowden, who insists on appeasing client appetites more than just visually. “The food is my mom's thing, she's good at it.” Judging by an exhibition opening of local artist David Lloyd's work on Saturday night, mom is good at it.
“Interesting” in today's gallery scene doesn't mean that the offerings must be Getty-wallet worthy. Gallery KM had four wine bottles on display, all Trader Joe's bargains, but actually a diverse selection (the days of cheap Chardonnay and Two Buck Chuck are thankfully over). Among the snack offerings were sage-spiced nuts and chocolate-covered pretzels (both also from TJ's), the latter being such a draw that several guest were surreptitiously brushing past the food table to sneak handfuls between conversations about brush stroke comparisons.
Most notably, what wasn't inexpensive was the bottled beer selection, which included 750 ml bottles of Triple Karmeliet. Beer — good beer — at an art gallery opening? Ten years ago it would have been a rare sighting. “Oh yeah, beer is big… the cool kids in Culver City serve canned beer in barrels and coolers,” says Klowden Mann, referring to gallery row in Culver City. She laughs, adding that her gallery, which is across from Coogie's diner and a strip mall, is perhaps not “cool” enough for canned beer.
We're going with mom on this one. We'll take a good Belgian beer (which pairs remarkably well with those chocolate pretzels, incidentally) over the hippest canned beer any day.