BY Reba Maybury in Opinion | 13 AUG 20

How to Survive the Art World

New rules for post-pandemic socialising 

BY Reba Maybury in Opinion | 13 AUG 20

Reba Maybury, Office Piece, 2018, Artefact from Barrel’s office, created under direction by Mistress Rebecca, framed digital print of hi-res image sourced online, 61 × 41 × 2 cm
Reba Maybury, Office Piece, 2018, artefact from Barrel’s office, created under direction by Mistress Rebecca, framed digital print of hi-res image sourced online, 61 × 41 × 2 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Arcadia Missa 

As we imagine what the potential new concepts for entertainment in the art world could be post-pandemic, it would be naive to believe that a new utopian egalitarian structure of socialising would miraculously appear. The monied art world is not going anywhere and it can be a monotonous affair, but this doesn’t mean you can’t find pleasure in it. In fact – you must infiltrate it. The social minutiae of openings and gallery dinners demand close consideration as a way to see the bigger picture of art world value and success. Within my practice I create my work out of such attention to power dynamics. Pleasure is subjective, and my kink is eradicating the lethargic binds of dated behaviour. Here are some loose rules for reframing how you can enjoy the art world in a post lockdown landscape.


Rich people are everywhere in the art world. I enjoy decadence and I like to accept invitations – worming my way into mirages of elegant settings is one of my favourite pastimes. I don’t want to tell you what to do because I myself do not want to be told what to do, but I do believe you deserve to be in these places, too. These people and spaces are not better than you. Rich people should never make you uncomfortable. Not all elites are dull; they can be useful if your interactions with them lead to progress or pleasure. Otherwise, my attention span is meagre. Being pleasant is the opposite of progress.


If art changes how we see and understand the world, then one of the most enjoyable practices is to take photos of men’s shoes at exhibition openings. I especially love looking at how their trousers skim their ankles and how much skin or sock they show. It’s even better when they wear shorts and you can inspect their calves. I never leave art events wanting to have sex.

Reba Maybury, Precious Expressions, 2018. Courtesy: the artist and Arcadia Missa, London 


Perversion is good and missing in most people’s lives. For me, there is nothing worse than ‘worthiness’; it should be replaced with radical compassion and humour. Being easily offended is dull, and the opposite of connection. It is fine to be confrontational with those who are competitive and/or aspire to conventionally elite ideals that you believe belong in the past. There has never been a more urgent time to have difficult conversations concerning the redistribution of wealth and power; these don’t have to be exhausting but you must have them with strangers. It is great to tell someone they are white. The unspoken must be spoken. Let’s evolve.


You do not exist to entertain rich people. Unfortunately, this can be a major part of the art system; it is up to you how much you give of yourself but be aware that even being a challenging person can seem droll in a gilded social field. If you are at a bourgeois or corporate event, one shrouded in the costume of creativity, I suggest you steal something. Wine glasses, ashtrays, candles and hand towels are easy to pocket or slip in your handbag. They will not be missed but are great for you since such things are so irritating to buy when you are poor. These objects don’t belong to anyone. Always be kinder to the people serving you at events than the people who have been invited. It is a good idea to find a way to take food home with you if it is available. Bottles of wine, too.


To summarise:


1. Ignore macho voices, rise everyone else's.

2. It is good to tell men to close their legs.

3. It is even better to tell someone they are white; this is not said aloud enough.

4. Your pleasure is important, so make it yourself.

5. Deconstruct the middle as much as you do the top and bottom; middle-class sentiments must be exploded.

6. Share what you can.

7. Develop your humour.

8. Masturbate regularly and have sex with people whose minds you like.

9. Never make small talk.

10. Consider everything.


Reba Maybury is an artist, writer and dominatrix. She is represented by Arcadia Missa, teaches subversive thinking at Central Saint Martins and is currently writing her second book.