Rooted in the artistic practice of Renaissance, the artist’s studio we know today branched out into many different shapes. It can be an intimate space of a single artist, or a shared workroom of an artistic group, or even a large, manufacture-like area where complicated works are invented and made. Regardless of its present format, the artist’s studio has kept its charm, fascinating art lovers through the ages. From Emile Zola to Michel Houellebecq, many writers and poets have dedicated works and pieces to the practice of visual artists, immortalising various ephemeral moments of thought and creativity. Even the word the French use for the studio, atelier, once indicated a home of an alchemist or wizard! A perfect summary of the appeal of an art studio, a stage on which the mystery of creation unfolds and produces memorable masterpieces.
Ivan Minekov in his studio in Sofia
Art Studio Through History
Throughout art history, many artists’ studios have played crucial roles in their handlers’ practices. Rembrandt was among the 17th-century artists who initiated a business-like studio practice where a number of his assistants produced work. He was not the first to have assistants, though, since we can trace signatures with “from the workshop of…” from several centuries earlier. Another famous studio from baroque belonged to another Dutch artist, Vermeer. His brief oeuvre was entirely created in his workroom, next to the iconic window, only the props have changed!
Impressionism can hardly be imagined without the imagery related to the artists’ studios and the bohemian’s struggle for survival. Kandinsky’s first abstraction was born inside his studio! And further, works of Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, or Keith Haring were all a product of fruitful and long studio practices.
Paola Minekov in her studio
Artist’s Studio Today
When we look at the contemporary art world, the situation has not changed significantly. Even though we can detect a lot more collaborative projects and shared studios in the form of artist collectives, artistic spaces have largely preserved their original function. Still, there is an increased trend of inviting the public into a studio space, which provides a new component to the nature of such a workshop.
Occupied by one artist, shared or collaborative, contemporary art studios are interesting places to visit. An art lover or collector can meet the artist personally and engage in a conversation learning about their practice and work. Some artists do not mind explaining their method in detail, from the choice of materials and tools to the realisation of an idea, which can be a precious experience for an interested observer. It’s exciting to see how a painting or a print are made, how artists live and what they keep around them. Every artist is unique and their studios reflect their individuality. Recognising an everyday object or a detail from real life in an admired work upon entering the creative workspace can prove quite thrilling. Just one visit to an artist studio can change the way in which we see the artistic process. Such thought-provoking jaunts expand horizons and enrich an art lover both intellectually and spiritually.
Ivan Minekov showing his work, personal archive
Visiting an Artist’s Studio
A studio visit is definitely an extraordinary experience for every art enthusiast. Still, for an aspiring collector it might seem challenging to take part in such an event. Not at all, we’re happy to say! Many cities around the world have established a tradition of “open studios”. Usually, this is a regular event that promotes a group of art studios around the community open during a particular day. Visiting studios during an open day is simple, with guides and printed materials are often given to visitors. Still, if a certain artist whose studio you wish to see is not taking part in such an affair, they might be open to the idea of a personal studio visit. Big studios with hundreds of assistants usually have hours reserved for visitors, but small one-artist studios are rather flexible. A novice art studio wanderer might benefit from visiting several historic art studios before venturing out to the contemporary art world. These aged spaces can provide inspiration, but also serve as a good conversation starter once there are living people involved.
Paola Minekov drawing in the studio
Artist’s Studio Decorum
Although a studio visit is considered an informal event, there is a certain etiquette in relation to it. Entering an artist’s studio is very similar to entering someone’s home and a similar set of rules applies. Therefore, announce your visit and make sure that you are not texting, making phone calls or listening/singing to loud music. Your host might offer drinks or food, dependent on the person, but also on the culture they belong to. In some parts of the world it’s unimaginable to welcome people into your space without feeding them or at least offering them a drink. Be mindful of the tempo and take your time - studio visits usually take more than an hour. Remember that this space is as private for the artist as it is professional and remain respectful, although there’s usually no need for formalities.
Once in the studio, try not to be overly intrusive by asking personal questions. Artist can be open about their personal life, but can also be easily offended. This implies to remain considerate and not bicker with the artist - that is just pointless and counterproductive to your visit.
Do the research about the artist you’re visiting beforehand and get informed about their practice. Otherwise, they might see you as a charlatan and you might get bored. Finally, there’s no other polite way to enter a discussion. Conversation is generally welcome, although some artists or collectors prefer their quietude. Still, if confused about a certain aspect of the work you’re seeing, by all means - ask a question.
And while some gallerists and regular studio callers insist on seeing the latest work, the hidden pieces or forgotten sketches, a novice might be best accepting the selection of the author. We agree that gallery-ready pieces can be seen in a gallery, but demanding on looking at that one painting facing the wall could be seen as rude. At the same time, be careful about the criticism. It’s not forbidden, but artists accept it differently.
Buying art from the studio is, of course, possible, but it depends on whether the artist is represented or not. If they have a gallerist, you will be required to purchase the piece through them.
Finally, you will want to take some pictures and will most probably be allowed to. However, ask before you share anything via the Internet since your snapshots might contain “sensitive” material.
Contact Lantern Gallery about possible studio visits here.