This summer, I have had the engrossing and eye-opening experience of interning at Gagosian Gallery in New York City. Gagosian was founded in 1979 by Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles, and has grown to become arguably the most important contemporary art gallery in the world. We operate across a total of eleven gallery spaces, including three in New York, one in Beverly Hills, two in London, and one each in Rome, Athens, Paris, Geneva, and Hong Kong. The gallery maintains a roster of many of the most successful artists from the modern period forward, including Richard Avedon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Marcel Duchamp, Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, Damien Hirst, Dennis Hopper, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Claude Monet, Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Richard Prince, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Julian Schnabel, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol…the list goes on!
Our space in uptown Manhattan, where I have been stationed since late May, is home to five gallery spaces and the offices of our sales, exhibitions, registrarial, provenance, research, publications, library, public relations, art handling, advertising, and archival staff. Gagosian prides itself upon mounting what we like to call “museum quality exhibitions”; often – particularly when we put up a show for an older artist – many of the works will not be for sale, but on loan from museums or private collections, included for the sake of show’s narrative. Another element that sets Gagosian apart from its peers – Pace, Zwirner, White Cube – is its freely designed professional structure. Many employees of the gallery – particularly the numerous “Directors” – perform a multitude of functions across the sales, curatorial and exhibition planning, publications, and administrative fields. This independently-driven, highly individualized model also applies to the daily work of an intern.
My work at the gallery has therefore been diverse in its nature. Rather than working for any one department, my job is to make myself available to everyone on our staff; this has made for a very exciting and interdisciplinary experience. I have completed research projects for sales, publications, and provenance staff pertaining to upcoming exhibitions of works by and publications about Picasso, de Kooning, De Maria, and Koons, among others. Often, this will entail making use of academic journals, auction records, the MoMA Library, the New York Public Library, and the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My work has also included annotating auction catalogues from recent Post-War and Contemporary sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips; preparing exhibition press releases and checklists for shows currently on display, (Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, Marcel Duchamp, Richard Prince, Alexander Calder); and, of course, performing administrative office tasks.
To say the internship has been eye-opening is an understatement. Though I am an art history major with plans to focus more specifically on the Modern and Contemporary periods in my independent work, and though I have always loved visiting museums and galleries, I can see now that I knew virtually nothing about the actual business of art before my time at Gagosian. This is a complicated, multifaceted, thrilling, challenging, and aesthetically engaging world, one that I look forward to becoming a part of. My experience here has, in particular, helped me to realize my interest in accessibility – how can we make high art available (not just visibly, but contextually) – to people of all walks of life? Online startups like Artsy are beginning to deal with this, and I hope to join them.
Beyond my work at Gagosian, I have been working throughout the summer on an independent research project about the life of Mark Rothko, for which I received funding from Princeton’s Department of Art and Archaeology. To fulfill my duties as Dramaturge of Theatre Intime’s upcoming campus production of Red, the Tony award-winning play about the artist, I am utilizing resources at the New York Public Library and the MoMA Library, and conducting field research in the Bowery and at museums across New York City, to explain Rothko’s biography, methods, theoretical writings and all sociopolitical references throughout the script in an approximately sixty page document for use by the cast and crew. I have additionally instigated a joint effort by Theatre Intime and the Art Museum’s “Rothko to Richter” exhibit, which will support events including a site-specific preview in the exhibition galleries and a post-show talkback with a curator and professor.
All in all, this has been a very busy, immersive, and art-filled summer! If you are in the city, I highly recommend checking out the shows currently up at Gagosian – Ed Ruscha’s That Was Then, This Is Now is a personal favourite!