Pass It On: 6 Tips to Conduct a Great Studio Visit

Installation of exhibition, "If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?" at Hunter East Harlem Gallery, Fall 2015, Curated by Arden Sherman. Photo by Natalie Conn

Installation of exhibition, “If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?” at Hunter East Harlem Gallery, Fall 2015, Curated by Arden Sherman. Photo by Natalie Conn

Studio visits are a great way to get your work out into the world, and there can be a lot of pressure to make a great impression in a short window of time. But it’s not always obvious what makes a great studio visit; presenting your best work is only half the battle. For part two of our series, “Pass It On,” where we reach out to artists and curators to get advice to what makes a successful art career, we asked curator Arden Sherman about her experience with studio visits.
Arden is the Director and Curator of the Hunter East Harlem Gallery at Hunter College in New York. She also curates the blog Mise en green, which looks at exhibition photography that features potted plants in gallery spaces.
A studio visit is a great introduction to someone and their practice. However, this type of visit—a show and tell of sorts—can also be laborious, not to mention nerve-racking. For the artist, it’s a lot of pressure to present your work in the best light possible, all the while being smart, charming, and not too crazy, right? For the curator, gallerist, or collector, it’s about engagement, even if you’re totally exhausted and hungover from that uncomfortable awards dinner the night before, as a curator, you still have to be on-point and attentive. Here are my suggestions for artists to make the experience as smooth-sailing as possible.

1. Provide delicious snacks!

A GOOD SNACK GOES FAR! Pro Tip: You’re guaranteed a solo show if you have flavored seltzer on hand.

2. Objects over slides.

It’s always better to physically show us what your art looks like rather than a series of slides on your laptop. Videos are acceptable, but they shouldn’t be too long. Remember, personality and relationships (think, FUN!) typically sell the work as much as, if not more, than the work itself. (This is a keen interest of mine, so I discuss this a lot with colleagues. News alert: friendships actually work!).

3. Know who you’re meeting with.

Time is money, people. If the curator/gallerist/collector is only interested in abstract painting, your YouTube video performance piece probably isn’t going to get you in that gallery. Ask questions and show interest in their projects and work. Although this is YOUR studio visit, the person you’re meeting with has a practice too.

4. Be on time.

We all know that things come up and delays happen, but if you’re running late just shoot a text or email. It’s easy, and it’s polite. Yes this is 2016 and you may be young at heart, but manners never get old.

5. Try to compliment the curator.

Notice her shoes! It’s just obvious and shows attention to aesthetics and detail.

6. Follow up. (That is, if you liked your visit of course).

I always appreciate a sincere thank you email from someone who enjoyed our meeting. It’s a simple gesture that has a lot of impact. However, don’t expect a response. The email went through and the recipient is likely juggling a ton of tasks. If the curator/gallerist wants to work with you, they will be in touch. Be patient too. I know… it’s hard.
Best of luck!

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