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Where have all the First Fridays gone?

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Was I the only one who was disappointed in the turnout and energy at this last First Friday? What happened to the festive atmosphere, the fast-paced conversation about the work, the frantic dash to try to see it all before the night ended? I mean, there wasn’t even a line for the cheap wine, and several places I went to had half-empty bottles at the end of the night: unacceptable.

Part of it, I think, is that many of the SoWa galleries have decided change their schedules and ignore the first Friday of the month. Thus, Bernard Toale, Gallery Kayafas, Rhys Gallery, and Laconia Gallery all had the same work I saw last month. New shows at OSP, Samson Projects, Allston Skirt, newcomer Julie Chae, and a few others were worth a look but overall the energy was missing, and the rapid dissipation of the crowd showed their reaction.

I have attended most of the First Fridays over the past 5 years, so I can understand and appreciate the fluctuations in people’s attention, the changes in the weather, busy days at work, the progression of the semester in this college town, and so on -- but it seems to me that First Fridays have been on the decline for a while. Drew Katz (remember Gallery Katz?) used to bemoan the first Fridays as a lot of people looking and nobody buying. Colin Rhys holds his openings on Thursdays because he wants his artists to get individual attention, rather than be one of many seen in a blur of two hours and 20+ galleries.

Still, with an art-viewing public who have become used to the first Friday of the month as the day to see new art, why turn your back on that momentum? If the people are there, and the event is weak, what incentive is there to go back and see the new work when it does open? If 20 openings are lame, why return for only one?

Admittedly, these are all smart people running successful galleries, and I’m sure they know their business and have made their choices based on what is in the best interest of the gallery and their artists. I can appreciate that a great deal.

So, then, if First Fridays don't help the artists and the galleries, and the crowds find them taxing, is it time to declare the end of First Fridays? And if not, how do we revive this night and make it a truly great showcase for art, and an event that people really want to attend?

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About Author

Matthew Nash is the founder of Big Red & Shiny. He is Associate Professor of Photography and New Media at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and was the 2011-12 Chair of the University Faculty Assembly. Nash is half of the artist collaborative Harvey Loves Harvey, who are currently represented by Gallery Kayafas in Boston and have exhibited in numerous venues since 1992.

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