Last week I opened a new exhibition. It’s been two years in the works, and to date is my biggest curatorial achievement. People seem to like it. They’re telling all their friends and sending me nice emails. It’s bringing people together. So I’m kind of proud of it.
A friend who came to visit was kind of proud of me too, and passed my catalog onto a friend of hers who happens to be a hugely influential collector of contemporary art. He flipped through the catalog, recognized two of the significant names, and then shared his one comment on the content…
“Oh wow! She’s really pretty!”
He was referencing my head shot.
I laughed when she told me. Inside, I was rolling my eyes.
If I were a man, would he have told her I was really handsome?
There really is nothing more demeaning to a woman in a professional setting than a reference to her attractiveness. Don’t tell me I’m pretty. That’s not going to convince an artist to work with me (well, it might if that artist were Jeff Koons) or a museum to hire me. “Pretty” isn’t something I’ve worked to achieve — it’s not a professional milestone. When it comes to my job, I’d rather a criticism on the quality of my work than a compliment on the quality of my face.
The front page of this weekend’s NY Time’s Sunday Styles featured an article called “The Young Gallerists.” The piece by Laura M. Holson highlighted a handful of young, ambitious go-getters who are making waves in the contemporary art world as they run their own galleries and curate shows of marked significance.
Clearly, I was out of town when she called.
Ms. Holson’s article points to the economic uncertainty of ventures in the art world, but focuses on the glamor of exhibition openings. Behind the glamor is a gritty story of a gallery director, a drill, and a large bottle of advil.
“ADAM! HELP!” I screamed as the 8 foot ladder under my feet began to tip.
Before my assistant could swoop to my rescue, I made a Lara Croft style dive for the lighting track, letting the freed can and blub crash to the ground.
I was in the midst of installing my gallery’s fall exhibition – a show of large-scale contemporary sculptures – and my near death experience while adjusting the gallery lights was just another almost catastrophe in a week ripe with artwork-induced calamities.
In the wee hours of the previous night, I offered to serve as the human vice for an artist while she sawed the head off a bolt. The saw only slipped twice, and unfazed, I watched the corner of my recently manicured index-fingernail shoot off. Luckily, the artist stopped before we had a chance to see if my new health insurance covered partial amputations.
“How thick is the plywood behind the plaster?” another artist asked as we tapped on one of the gallery walls, trying to decide if there was enough internal support for his work.
I shrugged and hoped for the best.
After all, I inherited my gallery walls, I didn’t build them. I have no idea what they’re made of. As far as I was concerned, there was only one to find out: Drill, baby, drill.
When the anchor for his florescent resin tree branch began to tear a stripe through the plaster, we figured the plywood wasn’t the ¾” thick we had hoped for.
I pulled out the patching putty and we resumed tapping.
“Do you have a stud-finder?”
“I assume you don’t mean my Friday-night wingwoman?”
Apparently, a stud-finder is a small contraption that you run over a wall to find an upright post in the framework of a wall.
I count the number of causalities amassed during the installation – my fingernail, my olive-toned crepe silk pants, half an artwork, one intern – and consider what still needs to be done. Wall labels need to be mounted. Price-lists need to be finalized. Exhibition brochures need to be picked up from the printer. Wine needs to be purchased.
There are only 2 days left till the opening. The clock is ticking.
On opening night, I’ll be made-up and bedazzled in vintage couture. The wine will pour. The charm will ooze. And then, like I’ve done every day since the loan agreements came in, I’ll collapse into bed, hoping my eyeliner will still look fresh when I go back into work the next morning to start all over again.