Artiquette: 7 Things Not to Do on a Studio Visit

Please ask before you post their work all over social media.

Wangechi Mutu in her studio. Courtesy of YouTube.

Artiquette is a series that explores etiquette in the art world.

Whatever your position is in the art world, you’ll probably agree that visiting an artist in their studio is a time-honored tradition. Artist studio’s offer an intimate look into the artist’s work and art practice. You will be able to understand the artist’s process better, and get to see art in it its natural habitat, the studio. But there’s also plenty that can go wrong. In an effort to help you avoid these pitfalls, artnet News spoke to a couple of New York-based artists to share some of their advice on how to do it right.

1. Don’t challenge the artist or ask overly personal questions
An artist we interviewed said she was once told to “freeze her eggs.” Don’t be that guy. We suggest that on your studio visit, you avoid making such personal comments. A studio is a creative and personal space. But it’s also a professional one, so professional and social etiquette rules apply. Remember the reasons why you decided to visit in the first place and try to stick to questions and comments about the work. While the egg-freezing comment was probably intended as some kind of compliment of the desirability of the artist’s genetic make-up, it’s way too weird and personal.

2. Don’t show up empty-minded
Don’t show up to a studio knowing nothing about the work of the artist. If you’re taking time to visit the artist you should spend some time getting to know the artist and their art practice. Walking in with some background information will help the studio visit flow naturally and successfully rather than the artist having to completely introduce themselves and their art. A part of a successful studio visit is discovery, however it is difficult for the artist to make sure that you’re up to speed about their work and resume while trying to explain their current work.

3. Don’t ask about the work facing the wall
If you’re a studio visit beginner, the artist will have a lot more experience than you on how to make the most of the visit. More importantly, the artist will have something planned to talk about. Let them take the lead and allow them to set the tone of the visit. One artist we spoke to said that people on studio visits are immediately drawn to work that is stacked and facing the wall. You should know that these are kind of off limits. If the artist wants to show them to you, she will.

4. If you don’t know, then ask.
Even after researching the artist, there will still be background knowledge you may not have. It may be terms the artist uses, influences in the art work, or historical context. If you don’t know simply ask the artist to explain. It will help your understanding, and help both you and the artist get the most out of your visit.

5. Be honest, but try not to be un-constructive
If something isn’t working in your opinion you can offer constructive criticism. However, be tactful about it. Artists appreciate opinions that may help advance their practice as long as it’s constructive.

6. Don’t rush 
Usually, a successful studio visit lasts over an hour. Giving the artist time to show you around their studio, asking any questions you have and getting to know their  art practice better it will take some time. If you’re pressed for time the visit will feel rushed and may not progress as naturally as it should. Keep in mind there will always be something more to discuss or another question to ask.

7. Don’t post to social media without asking
Posting to social media accounts is almost second nature, however it is always important to ask the artist if you can take pictures and post to your social media pages. If the artist allows for pictures to be taken and posted make sure to give credit where credit is due.

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