There is a tradition, born of commercial imperatives, for a one-man exhibition to begin with an exclusive event in which buyers, favoured friends, important people (who are invited), thirsty gatecrashers and malevolent colleagues (who are not), come to see the work before the doors are thrown open to the general public. The General Public, of course, being largely unaware of the artist, the gallery or anything to do with art at all, are not exactly clamouring to get in, and cause no damage to the doors when they open the next day.
I use the word tradition advisedly, because the event takes place even when no commercial prospects are in view, as in a public art gallery. Indeed the same pattern is followed in almost every circumstance; the free wine, the (mostly genuine) greetings and compliments, the introduction to new people, the hopeful looks at the few potential purchasers really looking at the art, and the covert sneering of a few jealous malcontents.
My wife calls them “nights of shame”. For years and years I had exhibitions in all sorts of galleries up and down the country, commercial and public. They seemed to fall on evenings when no-one in their right mind would venture away from the comforts of home and we spent the time in a room or two with a half dozen or so complete strangers two of whom were very keen to have you tell them all about your paintings, but not at the same time.
Nowadays I quite enjoy them, people seem a lot friendlier, and they are better organised than they used to be years ago. Plus I’m not as uptight as I was. There’s not much that a good glass of wine won’t ameliorate.