At the end of my first semester at Princeton, I decided to step outside of the Orange Bubble for the Spring. It was certainly not an easy, nor a common decision, but I needed to address health issues and wanted to explore my interests beyond the classroom. It was like a gap year, squeezed into three months.
I moved to New York City to not only be a short train ride from campus, but also to be in the capital of the art world. With over a thousand galleries, on the Lower East Side and Soho to Brooklyn and Queens, there is art for everyone, from the millennial influencers to historians and connoisseurs.
I found an internship in Chelsea, home to the largest gathering of galleries, with The FLAG Art Foundation. FLAG is a non-profit contemporary art institution, known for innovative exhibitions accessible to a diverse audience.
During my three months at FLAG, I assisted with two exhibitions, ON BOARD THE SHIPS AT SEA ARE WE — featuring a ten foot tall dining room table and chairs by Robert Therrien, a minimalist white sculpture pair by Rachel Whiteread, and two iconic wall-size typographic texts by Lawrence Weiner — and a survey of 120 drawings, titled Drawn Together Again.
The two simultaneous shows attracted over a thousand visitors and collectors, but I found a particular interest in the drawing show. The salon hang featured established and emerging artists, like Ellsworth Kelly and Roy Lichtenstein, next to academy art students and hobbyist cartoonists.
Subjects ranged from Einstein’s desk to E.T. smiling at Elizabeth Taylor, scribbles on restaurant receipts, flowers and landscapes, and even a meticulous drawing of a can labeled trash, to highlight just a few.
The FLAG team curated a dialogue among the artists and their drawings, while also portraying a range of themes, mediums, and practices. Each time that I explored the show, I would notice a new detail and further admire the “mosaic of delicacy and deliberateness”, as featured artist Ewan Gibbs described.
Throughout the internship, I completed a range of executive work, including loan agreements and condition reports, press releases, and checklists. I also had many hands-on experiences, from visiting artists’ studios to delivering catalogs and publications, and even returning drawings wrapped in cloth bags on the subway, (cautiously, of course). I was particularly grateful to form a genuine connection with the FLAG team, who generously let me tag along to art fairs and private openings.
I did not have much experience with the contemporary art world before my internship, in fact, I found it contorted and sometimes corrupt. Through FLAG, I learned the function of an art foundation, the relationship between a gallery and artist, the role of museums and collectors, and most of all, the power of art for the public.
As I reflect on my time away from Princeton, I feel re-energized and enthused to further explore my interests in art history back inside the bubble. But I will certainly bring my experiences in New York’s art scene with me, and hopefully bring fellow tigers along to FLAG to visit in the Fall.