Andrew Black is the Press Liason at Petzel Gallery.
Petzel represents a stable of prolific artists such as Wade Guyton, Adam McEwen, Sean Landers, and Dana Schutz. What have been some of your favorite exhibitions during your time at Petzel?
Given how closely I work with all of our artists, picking a favorite exhibition at the gallery would be nearly impossible. Each of our artists represents an important place in the narrative of art history and it has been a privilege to work with each to help amplify their message in the press.
In terms of our artists’ shows outside of the gallery, I think the standout of 2014 for me was the Maria Lassnig retrospective at MoMA PS1. Sadly Maria passed away soon after the show’s opening in March, however it had always been her dream to show at MoMA, so in many ways this was a happy and very well deserved ending to a long and dedicated career. Above all, Maria’s perseverance will hopefully inspire other artists to continue plugging away regardless of immediate critical or market validation. If you’re on to something in the end you will be noticed.
What skills are required as Press Liason?
First and foremost, having great material to work with is crucial – and working with Petzel’s incredible stable of artists gives me plenty of material. In terms of personal skills, working in PR your most valuable assets are your relationships and contacts in the press and your ability to craft a compelling pitch. This means understanding which details about an upcoming show or an artist’s broader practice will resonate with a particular publication or writer. Something which might be a great fit for Art Forum might not necessarily be of interest to T Magazine. Knowing your audience and being able to tweak your pitch accordingly is important! In regards to being a PR professional working in the art world, or specifically with artists, it’s a huge advantage and I would argue even necessary to have some meaningful background and/or understanding of art history.
Sean Landers’ North American Mammals was on view at Petzel through December 20th, and was reviewed in publications such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. How did the public respond to this exhibition in particular?
During the show I stumbled across a very cute Instagram of a young child lying on the floor of the gallery staring up in wonderment at Sean’s 40 foot wide painting of Moby Dick. I love this photo because it shows the huge range of people who were able to connect with and enjoy this show. The seemingly playful, tartan covered animals and the exquisitely executed library and tree paintings pulled visitors into a bewildering and beautiful fantasy world. At the same time beneath this very lush, visual presentation, for knowledgeable collectors and critics, Sean’s practice offers a very strong conceptual backbone. In addition to being a formal reference to Magritte’s Vache Period, the tartan motif is rife with other meaning and there is an almost poetic continuity to way the Tree, Library and Animal paintings all tie back to dominant themes in Sean’s practice.
How do you keep up with what’s going on in the contemporary art world? What are some of your favorite publications?
I find the best way to keep up with what’s going in is to attend as many gallery and museum shows as possible. Beyond that, the Internet and social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram are incredibly helpful when you can’t see a show in person. Of course I also do a lot of reading, both art focused and lifestyle publications that cover art. It’s very difficult to pick favorites because all of them have their own unique point of view and editorial objectives. With that caveat I would say Exhibition A is certainly required reading!
Do you live with art?
I couldn’t live without it! I tend to collect more conceptual work from artists of my generation like Anicka Yi, Carissa Rodriguez, Merlin Carpenter, Margaret Lee, Israel Lund and Park McArthur among others. I also have a killer Joyce Pensato Batman which I recently installed. Her show with us in February is going to be spectacular. Stay tuned!