Rhiannon Harries: Must a couple always like the same things?

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

Art galleries are often touted as the thinking person's pick-up joint. What better pretext for striking up a meaningful conversation than the merits of an Old Master or YBA, suggest dating experts. Somehow, though, inviting a stranger to share their thoughts on Caravaggio's brushwork can seem as lame as a "Do you come here often?" in a bar.

Still, if you're looking for love and a reason to get yourself to contemporary art fair Frieze or the several major new public exhibitions and fringe events in town this week (other than, you know, all that art), then bear in mind some recent research from Goldsmiths University.

According to the study, people who share a favourite art work or movement are likely to display similar characteristics and qualities, so lurk around your preferred canvas long enough and sooner or later your soul mate might turn up after all.

The array of options is head-spinning, but the more esoteric your choice of location the better when it comes to narrowing down your pool of potential paramours. If you're an animal-lover of a psychic persuasion, for instance, where could you be more likely to find companionship than at Auto Italia's pet séance sketching session?

Then again, some of us don't actually want to go out with people like ourselves. Gold-diggers, for example, should install themselves amongst the blue chip artists at Frieze to sniff out chequebooks, whilst good girls might find anti-establishment bad boys (or cheapskates) at the Barbican's alternative Free Art Fair.

But if it's cheap thrills not romance you're after, I'd suggest Tate Modern for Miroslaw Balka's unlit steel chamber (pictured). As I found to my dismay in Antony Gormley's similarly disorienting Blind Light cloud chamber at the Hayward Gallery in 2007, the potential for "accidental" close encounters is enormous.

Fun shouldn't be hard work

Going out for a drink or a meal was once entertainment enough. Now you can't set foot in a restaurant or bar without being invited to participate in some kind of add-on organised fun, from Mills & Boon reading groups to urban cross-stitch and philosophical debates.

New east London hang-out The Book Club now promises "to fuse booze with brain power" by offering workshops that cover everything from dance to DIY. Is it that we've lost of the art of having a decent spontaneous conversation over a pint? Or can we just not face any of these things without a drink in our hand first?

Tap-water fight still on

Building on the success of the "free tap water in restaurants" campaign, I'd like to extend the crusade to hairdresser salons. I've twice asked for a glass of water in recent months and been presented with a bottle of mineral water and a three-quid "bar bill". At least they haven't switched to Evian for washing one's hair. Yet.

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