I started to research getting an Assistant and found this ad
A cutting edge contemporary art gallery located in West London is looking for energetic, hard working, self motivated and social individuals to join our team. This is an unpaid internship position and offers students
Who painted the spots for Damien Hirst? And who stitched the felt on Tracey Emin’s blankets? Rose Aidin investigates the mysterious world of the artist’s assistant
When Julian Opie needed an assistant he placed an advertisement in the Guardian. Within days, his immaculate studio had turned into an artistic version of the Blue Peter depot following an especially emotive appeal. Every surface was piled with CVs, Opie’s voice mail and email boxes were jammed with keen inquiries, and then there were those so eager that they came by in person. Opie received more than 500 applications for a job which, if few outsiders are even aware exists, is increasingly integral to the contemporary art world.
500 applicants – all I need was one but I was beginning to fear that perhaps I was asking too much. I needed an assistant to carry things but I also wanted an assistant to draw things for me. Rose Aiden came to my rescue with a supporting evidence that I was not alone in my desire to have someone do my work.
The National Gallery’s curator of Dutch seventeenth-century paintings, Axel Rüger, is intrigued by the parallels between today’s artist’s assistants and those of Rembrandt’s day. ‘Rembrandt ran very large workshops with pupils who had to pay for the privilege. And they’d work with the artists for many years. There’s no way that one artist could have cranked out those hundreds of paintings, so they would work with assistants, and a master’s crucial touches to painting were sometimes even contractually determined.’
Morris uses assistants in every aspect of her painting and video work, inspired to delegate by Koons’s example, and is even planning a joint exhibition with one of her assistants in Spain. She likens the studio system to that of Hollywood: ‘It reminds me of Bob Evans’s book and film, The Kid Stays in the Picture. There’s far more infrastructure and collaboration going on inside the art world, a chain of command, than people see from the outside.’
Rüger argues: ‘The workshop may no longer be technical, but if hundreds of people apply should Julian Opie advertise for an assistant, it suggests that the basis of the studio of the very famous artist has not changed, just the motives, and the artist’s “name” remains every bit as important.’
The biggest name in twentieth-century art history, Andy Warhol, took inspiration from his assistants and turned the process into a happening in its own right with his Factory. So when Sarah Morris, who has a solo exhibition at White Cube in the spring, was studying in New York, she decided she wanted to work for Warhol’s successor elect, Jeff Koons. ‘Jeff made up a role for me. A lot of it was that I was just paid to be around. And he was producing a lot of stuff in Europe at the time, so it was slightly like Charlie’s Angels : he’d be squawking instructions at me from a speaker phone.’
So Rembrandt, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons all had assistants who did their work. I could still be an artist, and yet not do any art. This was a win win situation and my new assistant Gwen Washburn is beginning to be a great help to me. Here she is carrying some supplies to my studio.
Now I just have to see if she has any talent. Not sure how to do that?