Art Market

Why Galleries Are Starting Their Own Residency Programs

Casey Lesser
Feb 14, 2018 9:30PM

Rachel Monosov, Impossible Meeting Point, Newfoundland, 2016. © Catinca Tabacaru and CTG Collective.

Over the past few years, around half a dozen commercial galleries have launched new artist residency programs, both as a way give their artists time and space to create fresh work and to gain an edge in an increasingly competitive gallery landscape.

Residency programs—typically run by artists, private patrons, nonprofits, or institutions—provide artists with opportunities to temporarily live and work in new and unfamiliar environments, often surrounded by fellow artists. And while residencies have proliferated worldwide over the past few decades, until recently it was rare to find such programs initiated by galleries. Residencies are among the latest wave of alternative methods that galleries are testing out to give their programs more dynamism in the evolving art market.

Global mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth was one of the first to launch a formal residency, offering its artists and others affiliated with the gallery one-to-three month spells in a studio and apartment in the English town of Bruton, near its idyllic Somerset gallery since 2015.

Hauser & Wirth’s studio in Bruton. Courtesy of the gallery.


For his spring 2016 residency, Martin Creed spent six weeks creating a new body of work while embedded in the Bruton community, accompanied by his dog Jimmy. The artist told Artsy he’d “been well looked after; it’s quite a luxurious experience,” adding that “life is simplified because a lot of things are taken care of.” The sprawling show that resulted included colorful drip paintings that were made with the help of locals, including gallery employees, a youth group, and city officials.

Hauser & Wirth’s residency was always intended to be a part of the gallery’s Somerset outpost, said Alice Workman, senior director of Hauser & Wirth. There are no requirements for the artists, but she considers it a bonus when artists choose to engage with the local community, for example through welcoming educational groups into the studio. Some artists go on to have exhibitions of the work they create during their stay at the Somerset gallery—as was the case with Creed and Rashid Johnson, for example—though this is not often the case.

“Every single residency is quite bespoke in terms of how we look at it,” Workman said.

It’s not only mega-galleries that can offer these opportunities. In late 2017, the established London gallery Thomas Dane said they will be hosting artists at their new project and exhibition space in Naples, Italy. The four-year-old New York gallery Catinca Tabacaru is in the third year of its program, the CTG Collective Residency, for which it put out an open-call in January for its summer 2018 residency in Zimbabwe.

Installation view, “Rashid Johnson, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2017.” © Rashid Johnson. Photo by Ken Adlard. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Gallery residencies typically differ from traditional residency programs such as Skowhegan, Ox-Bow, and Yaddo, in that they’re often for one artist at a time, and are more about connecting to a place than to a cadre of other artists. Skowhegan for example, one of the most prestigious programs in the United States, welcomes 65 artists to its campus in rural Maine for nine weeks each summer.

“I think as the world becomes more digital and mediated through computers and the internet, artists seem to really value this idea of being together in close proximity, while also building more localized trust with people,” said Sarah Workneh, co-director of Skowhegan.

But what gallery residencies do provide is essential reprieve from the bustle of art-centric cities like New York and London, where many artists live and work.

The traveling residency run since 2015 by Catinca Tabacaru combines features of both traditional and gallery-run residencies. It is for a small group of artists, so participants do connect with peers, and they also go to destinations that take them out of their daily lives, including sites in Zimbabwe, Canada, and this summer, Serbia.

Justin Orvis Steimer, Gatekeepers of the North, Newfoundland, 2016. © Catinca Tabacaru and CTG Collective.

“In going as a group to completely new places, it’s almost like being aliens landing on a new planet, you dig deep into research, perceptions, ideas, you create relationships with people,” Tabacaru said.

She recalled the unique experiences and collaborations that came out of the first Zimbabwe residency, held in 2016. In one performance work, Zimbabwean artist Admire Kamudzengerere and American artist Justin Orvis Steimer walked four kilometers towards one another, rolling out a path of butcher paper until they met in the middle. “It was a real symbolic gesture of the coming together of cultures,” Tabacaru recalled.

During the same summer, Surinamese artist Xavier Robles de Medina spent two weeks drawing in a cave. “At one point, a huge band of baboons came to, as a shaman put it, ‘assess his work,’” Tabacaru remembered.

Each group residency culminates in a group show. Tabacaru said the exhibitions reflect the diversity of the group of artists and their experiences, but are united by the sense of place.

Terrence Musekiwa, God of the Ocean, Newfoundland, 2016. © Catinca Tabacaru and CTG Collective.

“It’s a body of work as a whole that is so disparate, in its uses of mediums and languages, and yet because it’s created all at the same time in the same place, influenced by the same earth and culture, there is a common denominator,” she said. “The works sing together.”

A similarly poetic confluence of artmaking and exhibition has already come out of Páramo’s new residency at the cultural center Tetetlán, located in Barragán’s iconic Casa Prieto residence in Mexico City. The space boasts the architect’s signature minimalist approach to form and color with an added historical significance as a location where he had collaborated with celebrated Mexican-German artist Mathías Goertiz. Given the chance to host a residency there, Páramo jumped at the opportunity.

The first resident, Emanuel Tovar, presented Un surco en la nada (2016) there in November, a performance in which a violinist gradually destroys his instrument by playing on it with a saw, raising questions around the tensions of creation and destruction. The next resident will be Adrián S. Bara, who has plans to create a feature-length film there.

Artists need certain environments to be able to create new work, Garcia Waldman noted. (Formerly of Galeria Nara Roesler, she opened a residency for the Brazilian gallery, too.) “With Tetetlán, it really has to do with Barragán, one of the pillars of Mexican culture and aesthetics, and being able to have contact with his ideas of silence and color and allowing artists to enter into Mexico City that way,” she added.

Casa Pedregal, Páramo Galeria’s space in Mexico City. Courtesy of the gallery.

Páramo also has a house next to its main gallery in Guadalajara where artists can stay and produce work. In its new Upper East Side townhouse, the gallery offers a bedroom dedicated to site-specific installations (currently host to an elegant installation by Queens-based artist Barb Smith), but where gallery artists who are in town for a show or project can also sleep. Garcia Waldman said the residency opportunities in Guadalajara are more for the practical purposes of having the artist create work in close proximity to the gallery where it will be shown. This helps cut costs, for example, on the shipping of work

A similarly pragmatic approach has been adopted by galleries in Brazil and China, such as Nara Roesler in São Paulo and Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing, where import taxes or customs procedures are particularly punitive, although the galleries typically don’t emphasize those practical benefits..

Regardless of motive, gallery residencies also benefit artists by giving them time and space to create work, without financial concerns. For these residencies, galleries foot the bill for room, board, and travel—costs that are borne by the artists in many more traditional residencies (which also sometimes have tuition fees as well). These can run anywhere from €700 per week at Venice’s Scuola Internazionale di Grafica to $6,300 for the two-week-long Arctic Circle Residency. (It should be noted that there are financial aid opportunities and grants that artists can put towards residencies; and, many residencies in Europe, like those of the Rijksakademie and De Ateliers in Amsterdam, are known to give artists stipends to cover expenses.)

Installation view at Páramo Galeria, New York. Courtesy of the gallery.

Tabacaru has found that collectors are eager to help cover costs, including through in-kind donations such as air miles, which makes it possible for her to offer a residency program that might otherwise be too expensive for her young gallery. This summer, a collector is buying flights to Serbia and Zimbabwe for Tabacaru’s artists. For the 2016 residency in Newfoundland, Canada, the gallery covered half of the expenses, while a collector paid the other half.

“What’s nice with a gallery, is there are a lot of people around it, supporting the program in the ways they can. There are a lot of residencies today that actually cost money,” said Berlin-based artist Rachel Monosov, who has gone on multiple residencies with Tabacaru, and is a co-founder of CTG Collective, together with Tabacaru and fellow artist Justin Orvis Steimer.

When Monosov participated in CTG’s first residency in Zimbabwe in 2015, she connected with Kamudzengerere, with whom she has now been collaborating for three years. Also a couple, they represented Zimbabwe at the 2017 Venice Biennale, and their latest project, 1972 (which will show at the New York gallery this March), is a performance-based photographic series inspired by their own interracial relationship, which presents a narrative around an interracial couple living in Harare in 1972.

The residency has also created a long-lasting relationship between Tabacaru and Zimbabwean artists. A former human rights lawyer with extensive experience in Africa, Tabacaru met the curator of Zimbabwe’s pavilion in the 2015 Venice Biennale, Raphael Chikukwa. With his help, she began planning the 2016 residency in Harare.

Pink Village by Rachel Monosov, Zimbabwe, 2015. © Catinca Tabacaru and CTG Collective.

There, Tabacaru met Zimbabwean sculptor Terrence Musekiwa, who she invited to the second residency in Newfoundland. Accustomed to creating work through stone-carving, Musekiwa was challenged to adapt and use new materials during the stay in a Canadian forest. Tabacaru now represents multiple Zimbabwean artists, including Musekiwa and Kamudzengerere, and opened a gallery there last summer, in Harare. Her residency there will be open for the first time this year to two artists from outside of the gallery’s roster and network, through an open-call application process.

Hauser & Wirth also uses its residency program to engage with artists outside of its roster as well as young artists and recent art-school graduates, for whom the program offers prestige and a chance to interact with a high-level gallery. The gallery has a residency for post-MFA students at CalArts, Bath School of Art and Design at the Somerset location, and Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles; it is in the second year of a residency in collaboration with University of the Arts London (UAL) that focuses on environmental art.

The latter program, initiated by UAL professor and artist Lucy Orta, allows UAL graduates to apply to spend two to four weeks in Somerset, during which time they take full advantage of the natural setting to make work that will generate dialogue on the environment, delving into topics including biodiversity, sustainability, and human rights. The 2017 resident Annabel Duggleby created a video and installation exploring the commodification of plants, which involved clippings from and documentation of the gallery’s Piet Oudolf-designed gardens. The current UAL resident, Tatiana Delaunay, is creating work to address the relationship between self and landscape, while working smack in the middle of the current exhibition “The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind,” which explores the dynamic between society and rural land.

Pink Village by Rachel Monosov, Zimbabwe, 2015. © Catinca Tabacaru and CTG Collective.

The gallery also taps artists from within its network, like current resident Catherine Goodman, who is not represented by the gallery, but has been actively involved in its education program in Somerset over last three years. Goodman is the founding director of the Royal Drawing School, London, and during the residency is pursuing her painting practice, which at its core is focused on drawing from life—a particularly fruitful activity given the natural, pastoral surroundings of the Somerset campus.

“For her, it’s a space where she can go and create work and get away, have an almost sabbatical from her normal routine in London,” Workman said. “And for us it’s a way to make new connections, and to work with her on ideas for our education program as well. It’s always a two-way conversation, each situation is unique.”

Tabacaru noted that for her part, the idea for a residency occurred to her even before she opened a gallery. “For me, being a gallery is a means to an end—it’s a way to support the artists, to create deep conversations, to present the work, and in a way where artists are able to think about what the show will be for quite some time,” she said. “So, the residency is and always was an integral part of the activities that I’m engaged with, that the gallery is engaged with.”

Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.