How to Make the Most of A Studio Visit.

Rodney Ewing, Pacific Felt Factory Art Complex, San Francisco, CA

You have worked hard to have the opportunity to have a studio visit by a potential collector, curator or art dealer. The days are nearing, how do you prepare? The studio visit is an intimate and special experience for both parties. As the artist, you are the host and the leader. The studio visit entails not only a well thought out installation and the unveiling of select works, but it also requires a mindset. Use your studio visit as a way to construct a living narrative regarding your story as an artist, from the beginning all the way to the present moment. What is that narrative? Go to your artist statement and bio and review them and impress yourself with all you have done! How do you ensure that when you say goodbye to your guest that you both are left with a beautiful experience?

Mary Burger, Studio visit at the Compound Gallery Studio Building with a Private Collector, Oakland, CA

Here are a few helpful tips to follow:

  1. Plan your studio visit during a time of the day when your energy is up. I usually recommend 11am or 1pm.
  2. Always be considerate of your guests time and start out the visit confirming how long they have with this simple approach: “Thank you so much for coming. I appreciate you making the effort to come to my studio. I just wanted to confirm that we have about an hour together today (or “about 45 minutes today” or “an hour or so today”). This allows both of you to be at ease with the time expectations. Be consideration that your guest may have a tight schedule and every 15 minutes count.
  3. Before you launch into talking about your art, kindly offer them readily available sparkling water, champagne or coffee for them to sip on while they walk around viewing your work. If they have a more open schedule, I recommend preparing ahead of time a few simple snacks to enjoy after your presentation to talk through art in general and touch upon reflections about your own art. Try to have a sense for your guest before they come time. Keep it simple and special and accessible to manage a smooth connected visit vs keeping them waiting in your studio while you go to the studio building kitchen etc to fetch a refreshment. Having everything ready and nicely presented shows that you value their visit and that can go a long way in your impression.
Robin Denevan, stART Up Art Fair

4. Head up, shoulders back and chin up. Embrace your role as an artist and as a story teller. Be confidence and speak with enthusiasm, determination and passion. When artists feel modest or shy, they undermine their own art by offering a bland presentation of their work. Your guests are here for an experience. Do not make them work hard for it. Make sure they have a good time and feel special! Eye contact is key and a smile always helps.

5. The majority of your presentation should entail your current portfolio from the past 2–3 years. If there are projects that conceptually inform your current portfolio, then start there. Your presentation should be a chronological unfolding of your work ending with your most recent artworks. Give them a basis for where you are coming from so that they have enough content about you and your work to follow you. Think about your verbal presentation as a narrative, highlighting interesting trips/inspirations/professors/educational experiences that reveal how you are unique. It is good to have a portfolio/binder with your resume, bio and artist statement and images of past works that you can hand them casually while you continue talking about the initial inspirations for your current work. Perhaps this portfolio has documentation of past projects you want to touch upon very briefly while you continue your narrative. This can all be while you are standing in your studio looking at them in the eye and referencing projects in the portfolio before you move on to have their eyes focus on your current work.

Beth Waldman 2014-2015 Series

6. Have works hung in a clean professional presentation as you would envision a gallery hanging them. Give each piece its proper space. Also consider that less is more. If you have 40 works in your current portfolio but only room to show 10, select your best work while also considering how this grouping can demonstrate developments in your studio practice as well as a conceptual evolution. If they get specially intrigued with one series, know how you can easily present them with another key work from that series to feed that interest.

Joo Lee Kang, “Chaos #4”, NO DEAD ARTISTS 2015, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, LA

7. Do not overwhelm them with way too many works as it can get mentally exhausting for anyone. Allowing your guest the time to look deep with some silence into a piece. Pay attention to how they are looking and respond to that. Ask them questions about what they think or connect with in your work. Think about your body language and step back to give them the space to step in. Sit in the silence with comfort as if your artwork and your guests are having their own conversation; this is the magic. Do not interrupt it! It may be that the most valuable part of your studio visit. Once they connect with one of your artworks at a deep level, they will feel this connection with your other works and you as an artist. You will start hearing what they think and see how they start asking you questions.

Walid Raad, “Cotton Under My Feet” 2007, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA

8. Consider that you may be asked, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?”. Serious collectors, curators and dealers want to have a sense for your dedication to your art and the future of your career. Think about a few specific upcoming projects, juried exhibition or residencies in which you aspire to participate. Share your thoughts about direction with your studio practice, perhaps applying for public art projects and if so why, and any further conceptual investigations that demonstrate a continuum with your current work. This is the opportunity for your to demonstrate your intent as a practicing contemporary artist.

Most of all - enjoy it. You know yourself and your art better than anyone else. You are the best leader for your presentation and the best one to convey the ideas on which your art is built. Feel free to email me at beth@waldmanarts.com with any questions or for personalized help.

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