While I’ve spent plenty of time with artists over the years, it’s generally been in a fairly specific context—that of journalist and subject. That experience is rewarding, and often revealing, but it’s also constrained. An hour or two spent in the studio, or touring a gallery exhibition, offers limited insights into what makes a person tick. A studio visit can feel spontaneous and intimate when, in actuality, it’s proceeding according to a kind of script: This is how the artist talks about her work on the record, over the arc of 45 to 60 minutes.
These barriers start to break down when the goal is not an interview or an article, but rather an exhibition. This, of course, won’t be news to any curators out there, whose careers are defined by just such in-depth relationships with artists, often unfolding over months or years. But my guess is that, in most cases, planning a typical institutional show involves a bit of one-on-one contact, and a whole lot of administrative and bureaucratic wrangling—a lot of gallery liaisons and studio managers, a lot of cooks in the proverbial kitchen.