Gallery-Sponsored Artists Residencies Are Spreading Across the World

Residency programs are typically run by nonprofits, art museums, and even private patrons. Over the past few years, however, around half a dozen galleries have launched their own residency programs as a way to stand out in the market and give their artists the time and space for reflection, research, and production.

One new addition to this trend is Emmanuel Perrotin, whose namesake gallery has around a dozen exhibition spaces from Paris and New York to Tokyo and Seoul. This past summer the French dealer opened his secondary home in Cap Ferret, in southwest France, to painter GaHee Park and sculptor Genesis Belanger. The two artists created an exhibition, “Finger Bang,” that went on view in Paris at the gallery in September. Three artists who were included in that show, Danielle Orchard, Elizabeth Glaessner, and Nikki Maloof have also had the chance to work in this new artistic haven by the sea.

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One of the first galleries to have contemplated residencies as an alternative model is Hauser & Wirth, beginning in 2013 when Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist came to stay at its Somerset, England location, ahead of its opening. “Her son went to the local school, and she joined the parent’s council,” said Debbie Hillyerd, the gallery’s senior director of learning. “Since then we have hosted 18 artists at the residency studios, inviting them to spend an extended period of time living and working in Bruton.” Artists who have taken up a short residence there include Rashid Johnson, Martin Creed, Henry Taylor, Bharti Kher, and Thomas J. Price. The current and 19th resident is London-based artist Allison Katz, who will be in Somerset until March.

Ever since, others have followed either for practical, commercial, or personal reasons, including Thomas Dane (of London and Naples), Nara Roesler (São Paulo and New York), Catinca Tabacaru (Bucharest, Romania, and Harare, Zimbabwe). Gallery-run residencies appear like a solution to stand apart from the competition.

“There is power in numbers,” said dealer Catinca Tabacaru. “The first residency resulted in the founding of the CTG Collective, which is made up of gallery leadership and gallery artists. By running the program together, we have diverse input, a stronger sounding board.” Tabacaru added that the idea for a residency occurred to her even before she opened a gallery. “I knew I was not interested in being limited by walls. I wanted to travel with my artists, engage with different spaces and cultures.”

It only seems fair that most galleries would tap into their own network. Perrotin, who champions both Park and Belanger, agreed to let them co-curate an exhibition, when they presented him with the idea of a show that would “explore the themes that hands seem to be representing in art.” During that time, the French dealer was supervising the renovation of extensions he had bought to his Cap Ferret home precisely for his residency project. The white and blue outhouses, both designed by his friend Cathy Vedovi, are respectively called La Cigale (The Cicada) and La Fourmi (The Ant), after one of the fables by French 17th-century storyteller Jean de La Fontaine.

Perrotin may occasionally pop in and see how his guests are doing, as sharing his 30-year-old secret garden was all about getting closer to his artists and allowing them to know him better. “This intimate place is very important to me. I hope everyone will see, like me, how magical it is,” he said.  

Others use their residency programs to engage with talents from outside their rosters, including recent art-school graduates. From 2017 to 2019, post-MFA students at the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts), Bath School of Art and Design, and BathSpa University were invited to work at the Somerset location and at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles.

Similarly, Lucy Orta, an artist and professor, launched the Art for the Environment International Artist Programme (AER) in collaboration with University of the Arts London (UAL) to focus on biodiversity, environmental sustainability, social economy, and human rights. Last September, four students from the Dartington Arts School in Falmouth, England, were invited to develop work responding to the work of German artist and activist Gustav Metzger for an exhibition titled “Remember Nature.”

Last year, London-based dealer Thomas Dane decided to open his Naples-based residency program to “non-gallery artists.” Abbas Akhavan and Ser Serpas, whom Dane does not officially represent, are featured in his latest group show “Metter al Mondo il Mondo” (on view until January 28 in Italy), though that wasn’t always the intention. “Our residencies are usually very non-prescriptive. We don’t demand a finished fully formed exhibition or a defined end outcome. Our residents are welcome to come and reflect only,” said the gallery’s director Federica Sheehan. 

“The whole point was to engage with local creatives,” said Tabacaru. Ever since she launched her traveling residency in 2015, which has taken place in Zimbabwe, Canada, and Serbia, she has been representing several Zimbabwean artists, including Terrence Musekiwa and Admire Kamudzengerere. That led her to open a gallery in Harare in 2017 in partnership with Dzimbanhete Arts and Culture.

For Emmanuel Perrotin, bringing international artists, like Montreal-based GaHee Park or Danielle Orchard and Genesis Belanger, who both live in New York, together in France is a chance to be environmentally friendly, namely by avoiding air travel. “Shipping works from Cap Ferret to Paris, rather than from anywhere else abroad, is the responsible thing to do,” he said.

As with traditional artist residencies, a major benefit of ones run by galleries is that artists are able to take a break from worry about certain everyday concerns like rent and food costs, as well as benefiting from a new space in which to grow their practice and a sense of community. Tabacaru confirmed that collectors are often eager to pitch in, some by sharing air-miles, others by paying plane tickets to Serbia or Zimbawe.

While at Perrotin’s French residency, Orchard moved her supplies outside to pull directly from her surroundings. There, on the peaceful terrace facing the sea, she started a new body of charcoals sketches. “I thought it would be fun not to have to deal with color for a while, to just think about line for a while and reset my mind,” she said.

Gallery residencies are a chance to learn from others; while Orchard was painting outside, Park and Belanger were painting back-to-back in the living room. For example, Belanger, who is known more as a sculptor, took advantage of being in the presence of painters to resume making two-dimensional works. “It’s nice to have these two around, so I can ask them what’s wrong with my images, because it’s not the material I am used to,” she said.

What sets some of these gallery-run residencies apart is that artists have the opportunity to return to them after an initial visit. “An artistic residency allows time and space for ideas to grow”, said Hillyerd, of Hauser & Wirth. Artist Bharti Kher spent time at the Somerset residency in 2017 and 2019, and presented a show, entitled “The Body Is A Place” based on the body of work she developed there that is on view at the Arnolfini in Bristol until January 29.

But inevitably most of these residency programs have resulted in the production of works that can ultimately be sold from a gallery exhibition or at a fair. Some of the works GaHee Park made in the south of France were displayed at Frieze London.

Tabacaru said she hopes she can do something different moving forward. “We dream of a residency that is not so ‘doing’ focused, but rather based on the “being/ thinking” rhythm,” she said. We haven’t been successful in creating this type of space yet.  We’re all quite guilty of being doers.”


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