Virtual Studio Visits: Digital is the New Normality

Studio visit rules have been rewritten due to the pandemic, putting a damper on this ritual, but many artists are staying connected to the art world by embracing virtual studio visits.

David Syre studio

by Heather Zises

For visual artists, the studio visit has always been a rite of passage when it comes to sharing your art and practice with coveted critics, curators, and dealers. Part of the magic is engaging in conversation about your work while standing in front of it, perhaps while the scent of linseed oil hangs in the air. Unfortunately, studio visit rules have been rewritten due to the pandemic, putting a damper on this ritual. This means gone are the days of gathering in a small studio to chat endlessly about color. Nonetheless, artists are intrepid when it comes to showing their work and refuse to let social distancing dictate their path. As such, many are staying connected to the art world by embracing the virtual studio visit.

David Syre studio
Agora artist David Syre working in his studio

To make the process feel more manageable, we have created a list of tips on how to make a remote studio visit a successful endeavor. To start, we suggest creating a master to-do list that can be divided up into a series of weekly tasks. Looking at a timeline, let’s explore what should be done starting with three weeks before.

Three Weeks Away

The first thing every studio host should do is secure a date and time for your visit. Even though most of us are working remotely now, everyone’s schedules are still busy. Curators are still curating and dealers are still dealing, just perhaps in a more virtual space. That said, it’s a good idea to set an appointment with your visitor via email or phone call.

Artist Eunmi Park in her studio

Once the date has been set, decide upon which digital platform to use for your visit. One unexpected benefit brought on by the quarantine is the spate of virtual conference platforms that are now in the mix such as Zoom or Skype. If you think you will be giving a more complex studio tour in the sense that you will be moving around a lot, consider doing a livestream on YouTube or Instagram.

Another option you may want to explore in advance of your visit is using a digital platform that allows screen sharing. We recommend this so you have the flexibility to show your visitor press clips, previous work examples, portfolios, or hyperlinks that reference your work.
TIP: If you decide to prepare a selection of links, have them queued up in advance so you do not waste time fumbling through your browser.

Two Weeks Away

Now that we have laid the groundwork, let’s explore what should be done two weeks in advance of your visit. A worthy note about communicating online is to adjust your expectations and have patience with technology. It is important to remain flexible and accepting of “substitutions” in case you do not have the necessary materials or cannot access a location to show a specific work.

An ideal time to prepare a virtual studio visit is before an exhibition. Pictured here, artist Milana Alaro in her studio, posing with a self-portrait.

Regardless of the pandemic, proper lighting is always essential for showing and viewing art. That said, if your computer does not have a quality camera, you should consider investing in an external webcam which can be clipped onto a laptop or placed upon a desktop. It makes a huge difference in terms of clarity and can be especially helpful when showing a work that requires great detail. Another important aspect is image stability. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a shaky camera, therefore make sure your webcam is in a stable position. One option is to use your desktop. Another option is to invest in or borrow a selfie stick if you plan on being super mobile during the visit. This way images will not look warped and your visitor can see both you and your work in the same shot.

Connectivity is key, therefore another main factor in maintaining a smooth visit is making sure you have steady access to the internet with a solid WiFi connection. One quick way to troubleshoot is to perform a Google internet speed test which will help identify any pesky issues.

One Week Away

Now that we have sorted through technological issues, let’s determine what is left to do one week prior to your visit.

The key to any successful studio visit is to plan in advance. It really shouldn’t matter so much that you cannot be in the same room as your visitor, but it does matter that you are prepared. Be ready to talk about your current body of work or relevant projects. Since you cannot be in the same space to physically hand your guest a portfolio or exhibition catalogue, it’s a good idea to prepare a list of links, images, and materials that you can share via screen share during your visit. Another important detail that is not to be overlooked is to remain cognizant of the time. No one likes a studio visit that runs excessively long or ends dreadfully early. So, make sure you present your work and ideas thoroughly, but within the designated time frame.

When speaking about your art, make certain that you know “how” to talk about it in a clear and succinct manner. In most cases, your visitors will be somewhat familiar with your work already—especially if it is a collector or dealer that has worked with you before—but it is still a good idea to memorize a pithy statement that expresses central ideas about your practice. Remember that you are the expert on your own work and not the other way around! Conversely, it’s equally important to familiarize yourself with your visitor. For example, if you are having a curator over, know what type of shows they organize and what their specialties are. If you’re hosting a collector, find out what type of work is in their collection and how your work might fit in.

If you cannot access your studio due to quarantine restrictions, make sure to recreate a home studio with good light and at least one open wall where artwork can be rotated. Home studio options don’t need to be elaborate, but they do require a block of uninterrupted time. If you share a living space with friends or family, we suggest you book “quiet time” with them in advance of the visit so there are no unexpected guests during your remote studio visit.

Last but not least, reach out to your guest to re-confirm their attendance for your remote studio visit. A gentle way to do this could be sending them a Zoom link in advance with a friendly note.

Related article: Online Art Classes: Art as an Educational Tool at Home

Making A Good Impression During the Visit

Finally, the big day has arrived! Like you would for any regular studio visit, make sure to hone your appearance, review your talking points and relax. Perhaps start things off by sharing a virtual cup of coffee as you ease into the conversation. It’s natural to have performance anxiety before a studio visit but there is no need to fret. It is important to leverage your presentation style based on your personality. This means if you tend to be more of an extrovert, learn how to balance the conversation by speaking less and listening more. If you tend to clam up at the idea of having to discuss and present your work, do not let fear get in the way. During your visit, the focus should be on establishing a solid connection with your valued visitor. Take comfort in the fact that they made time for you, therefore you can reciprocate this action by making them feel welcome and engaged in your work and practice. If all else fails, leading with an art world gaffe is a guaranteed hit. Who doesn’t have an opinion on Maurizio Cattelan’s duck taped banana at Art Basel?!

Looking to enhance your career and build a presence in New York? Submit your portfolio to us and get the opportunity to present your work to a broad range of national and international art collectors and buyers. Visit our Gallery Representation And Artist Promotion page for more information.

Keep in mind that while there is a running list of pros and cons to the remote studio visit, the exercise inevitably opens up new possibilities for both artists and their guests.

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