To test out how this theory applies to art studios, we spoke to four different pairs of artists who have shared workspaces for various reasons in recent years. Though distinct in their careers, these artists found that their working arrangements made a profoundly positive impact on their respective practices.
While many artists who opt to split a studio make the decision primarily to save money in cities where rent is staggeringly high, others are drawn to the scenario for the stimulating influence that comes from working side by side with peers. That was the case for artists
, who have been sharing a studio and an apartment on and off since the 1990s. Amer is well-known for her erotic embroideries on canvas, and some of her more successful works were conceived in an ongoing collaboration with Farkhondeh, a notable painter in his own right.
As Farkhondeh explained over the phone, “The triggering elements for our collaboration came after I experienced depression, and maybe without my depression it wouldn’t have happened at all.” While at CalArts in 2000, he was so haunted by inner demons that he moved to New York to share a studio with Amer. “At the time, I suspected everything was coming from my paintbrush. I thought if I painted on Ghada’s canvases, maybe I wouldn’t have that problem anymore,” he recalled. Although he soon pushed past the fear, the collaborative process led to a playful, uninhibited energy that both artists wanted to further cultivate. They’ve shared an open-plan studio in Harlem ever since, with each artist working on one side of the room and collaborations happening in a diplomatic buffer zone that runs between them.
The arrangement is not without tension, however. Amer, who is neat and orderly when she embroiders, admitted that “when I paint, I drip,” nodding to the mess that can accumulate on the walls and floor. “Reza, on the other hand, is very controlled,” she added, noting that they’ve recently grown out of their space and are in the process of renovating a new building. This airy four-story studio will offer separate levels for Farkhondeh, Amer, and their assistants, plus an open stairwell snaking up the center, ensuring that neither artist is isolated.