This article completes the professional tips for Artist Curators (additional GO related articles will address Artist Marketing and Artist Community Relations). These reflections come from our working art studio, which we revamped into a more gallery-friendly exhibit space in preparation for the GO Brooklyn Art - Open Studio weekend. If you missed the first part of this article, including the first 5 Artist Curator tips, read it here.
My studio, Art Studio B50, is located within the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, an emerging artists enclave. Visit the new Sunset Park Artists blog, to preview art presented by local Sunset Park artists. I volunteered to design the blog with Eleanor Whitney @killerfemme, GO Neighborhood Coordinator for Sunset Park, Program Officer, New York Foundation for the Arts.
1 - THE ARTIST CURATOR - Part 2
These tips are numbered to suggest a sequence. Together all 10 tips can help serve as reminders in executing gallery exhibition design. These tips can help guide you in preparing your space for studio visits or presentations or book launches, and inspire your art inventory management.
6. Influence that foot traffic! Create a traffic flow pattern using your studio furniture. The big white box default gallery aesthetic often neglects building relationships with prospective patrons. Open rectangular gallery spaces can exhibit physically larger art successfully if the art can draw attention by activating the space. In a smaller exhibition space, like a re-purposed art studio, take full advantage of your more intimate setting by structuring the space. Move around your tables, partitions or moveable walls, easels, pedestals, or chairs until you are satisfied. Use the floor plan you drew in tip #5 to test out different foot traffic patterns. Make sure visitors can get into and move around your space easily. Make sure visitors cannot see all your art from one spot and dart out. Have inventory not on display conveniently stored to tease intrigued patrons, tempting them to request to be shown additional artwork. If people can look at different artwork separately in different areas, it will increase their staying time as they move around from area to area within the space. Separate areas increase intimacy between patrons and the artwork. Include chairs, so patrons can have a resting point to sit and meditate on the art. Place an attractive large piece of art further into the space to draw the audience in. Instead of cramming smaller pieces together, see if a smaller detailed piece can hold its own wall and draw in viewers.
7. Categorize your artwork to start the selection process. Group artwork by not just chronology, media, or project, but find thematic, functional, stylistic, or compositional similarities. Grouping artwork places it within a greater context, and helps the artwork tell a story and engage the audience. A exhibition design strategy is to hang groups of work, either retrospective series over time, or larger projects composed of many smaller products (see the current “Stray Light Grey” Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe exhibit at Marlborough Chelsea as reported by Art Fag City @artfagcity), or thematic connections (see the current “IRREALISM” Pat Andrea exhibit at BDG Bertrand Delacroix Gallery). Categorizing my artwork from scratch helped me to realize the breadth of work done and in progress. Little did I know, I have five separate, yet related, thematic series in progress. This new categorical approach inspired me to revisit one altar / combine, (integrating a time composited portrait of my daughter and a response to a Bruce Nauman conceptual performance piece) I title No Body Pressure, that had been set aside. If you believe you have one similar thread linking all your artwork, look again. Or maybe you may want to branch out and expand your inventory line.
8. Plan and edit your space carefully. Decide where you will place all artwork. A working artist can amass a considerable inventory. Not all, or even a fraction must be displayed at once. This can be the toughest part of the selection process. Be selective. Be dashing. Be editorial. The earlier art categorizing helped me decide on inclusion and exclusion criteria. I grouped one area with artwork, sketches, visual inspiration, and final work for my first graphic novel series PAIN FULL NESS. I also peppered my area with sculptures that are character designs from the universe of PAIN FULL NESS, and the poster I designed for that book launch. A second area displayed ideas and connections for my new art movement, Symbolic Realism. Articles are being drafted on Symbolic Realism, stay tuned! Other thematic areas included Abundance, Monsters, and Altars. Juggling the physical confines of five thematically planned areas helped me to exclude artwork, and balance the temperaments of each neighboring piece. Always take care when mounting and dismounting artwork. One goal for exhibit handling is to have no WHOOPS moments, causing rips and tears, and wiping away sobbing tears.
9. Be prepared with press friendly materials. Most galleries provide information on the artist currently being exhibited, in a white 3-ring binder with sheet protectors sleeves, at their main front desk. Make your own press binder! This binder contains all your art career information, including a resume, bio, artist statement, and work samples. I included tabs for cultural and technical statements, which are good practice to write for the NYFA Fellowship grant applications. Work samples should include color images, with descriptive information and brief discussions of all artwork. If you work on small scale prints or drawings, include some in a separate section in this binder or in a presentation portfolio nearby. If your art is included in publications or has been published, have copies ready nearby. Include sample press releases, article write ups, copy of blog posts, etc. Writing about your artwork is great practice for getting used to discussing your artwork. If you are prepare for press, they will come, and in the meantime, do it your damn self! Write up a press release for the open studio or exhibit event, and have full color handout takeaways with images of your artwork. Here is our press release for GO Brooklyn Art - Open Studio Weekend. I would appreciate your feedback on my press release. On the press release add a brief bio, artist statement, quotes, your profile portrait photo, and images of a full artwork and detail, which will help remind the visitor of meeting you and their cultural experience. More on cementing the cultural experience in the next post on Art Marketing.
10. Do not lose the sense of wonder that is revealed in an art studio. You are transforming your space to mirror the look and feel of a gallery, to showcase your art products. In addition, this display opportunity offers potential patrons a peek into your creative process. The intimacy and uniqueness of your studio should shine through. Reveal your creative process! This is a wondrous advantage that open studios offer which differs from the gallery or museum art viewing experience. The space is more interactive, and more informed by the presence of the artist in their own sanctuary. When visitors come, fuel their curiosity. In my space, you can find lots of writing on papers on my walls. These are my ideas, which inspire research and reveal connections throughout my artwork. Written language has always figured prominently in my artwork, having been a graffiti muralist, poet, calligrapher, graphic designer, illustrator, and painter over the years. When somebody visits my space, I open up and share my process through my writing. I also use writing as a two-way form of communication, inspiring other art enthusiasts.
I took full advantage of this open studio event. At every exhibition opportunity, take advantage of its possibilities to learn and plan for the next art curation expereicne.
The next set of tips and reflections on the GO Brooklyn Art - open studio weekend, GO get some art, Brooklyn! will consider Artist Marketing, and the concluding set of reflections will regard Artist Community Relations.
Reading these 10 tips for artist curators, which were most useful, which were waaaay off? What tips would you include for the budding artist curator? Please share your exhibit design and art curation experiences below.
Good coffee, good love, and good art to all!
Noah Xifr | Artist Curator, Noah X Arts