Recent Articles
10 Questions for LatchKey Gallery co-founders
10 x 10 x 10
10 Questions for LatchKey Gallery co-founders Natalie Kates and Amanda L. Uribe
INTERVIEW: Elmgreen & Dragset
Meet the Artist
INTERVIEW: Elmgreen & Dragset 'What We Need to do, As Cultural Workers Today, Is to Find a New Way of Getting Back Our Dignity as Citizens'
10 Questions for RESORT Gallery co-founders Seth Adelsberger and
10 x 10 x 10
10 Questions for RESORT Gallery co-founders Seth Adelsberger and Alex Ebstein
10 Questions for River Gallery Founder Carl E. Smith
10 x 10 x 10
10 Questions for River Gallery Founder Carl E. Smith
10 Questions for Davis Editions and Originals Founder Jeff Davis
10 x 10 x 10
10 Questions for Davis Editions and Originals Founder Jeff Davis
10 Questions for Baby Blue Gallery Founder Caleb Beck
10 x 10 x 10
10 Questions for Baby Blue Gallery Founder Caleb Beck
10 Questions for Carvalho Park's Jennifer Carvalho
10 x 10 x 10
10 Questions for Carvalho Park co-Founder Jennifer Carvalho
The Making of Love, Rihanna: Luxury Supreme
Close Look
'A Piece of Art That I am Really Proud Of' - Rihanna on Love, Rihanna: Luxury Supreme
INTERVIEW: Sterling Ruby
Meet the Artist
INTERVIEW: Sterling Ruby 'In America, often the response to negative aspects of the system is to retreat to platitudes about morals and family values. In this way nothing is achieved.'
INTERVIEW: Kerry James Marshall
Meet the Artist
INTERVIEW: Kerry James Marshall 'I never think of artworks as having a quality that’s intended to mobilize people to action. They don’t make people do things. But they do put questions in the mind of a viewer that they may not have entertained before...'
Come On Our Virtual Studio Visit With Maria Jimena Herrera
Meet the Artist
Come On Our Virtual Studio Visit With Maria Jimena Herrera
Jeff Koons on Big Ideas and Gazing Balls
Perspectives
Jeff Koons on Desire, Beauty, the Vastness of the Universe, and the Intimacy of Right Here, Right Now
Could Artist Collectives Transform A Post-Corona Art World?
On Trend
Could Artist Collectives Transform A Post-Corona Art World?
INTERVIEW: Sarah Sze on How all Art is Essentially Sculpture
Meet the Artist
INTERVIEW: Sarah Sze on the Changing Pace of Time and Space, the Ebb and Flow of Information, and How all Art is Essentially Sculpture
INTERVIEW: Chris Levine on Photographing The Queen, Naomi Campbel
Meet the Artist
INTERVIEW: Chris Levine on Photographing The Queen, Naomi Campbell and The Dalai Lama

Exhibitions

If These Walls Could Talk: 5 Intimate Views of Legendary Artists' Studios

By

If These Walls Could Talk: 5 Intimate Views of Legendary Artists' Studios
"In the Studio" features artworks depicting the artist's studio, such as this painting by Jacek Malczewski, Melancholia (Melancholy) (1890–94) (Courtesy Gagosian Gallery)

Bruce Nauman once said, “Art is what an artist does, just sitting around a studio.” The idea was that art could be anything, as long as it was done within a space dedicated expressly to art-making.

For some artists today, such spaces are no longer necessary. A studio might be a laptop computer in a shared office, or it might be an international conglomerate run by a jet-setting art celebrity. Yet the romance of the traditional studio—typified by the solitary painter working at his easel, or even a Naumanesque video artist pacing around the room—endures. Jonas Wood’s detailed painting of his studio hallway, for instance, recently sold at auction for more than $500,000, a record for the contemporary artist.

In the midst of all this uncertainty about the studio, “In the Studio,” a pair of exhibitions at Gagosian Gallery in New York (through April 18) accompanied by a two-volume Phaidon catalogue of the same title, offers an authoritative history. In his half of the project, the Museum of Modern Art’s chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture John Elderfield assembles paintings of studios from the mid-16th through late-20th centuries. MoMA’s former chief curator of photography Peter Galassi, for his part, unearths similar examples in photography.

Below, a look at some standout studios as seen by their inhabitants.

 JEAN-BAPTISTE SIMEON CHARDIN
Attributs du peintre (Attributes of the Painter), c. 1725-27Image 0 Oil on canvas, 19 ⅝ x 33 ⅞ inches (50 x 86 cm). Princeton University Art Museum. Gift of Helen Clay Frick. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

In this early still life, Chardin locates the essence of the studio; it’s not a room so much as a set of tools. He shows us bladders of pigment and a jar of binder, a roll of blue paper, a statuette of the type used in academic drawing, and a palette with an array of brushes. Chardin would go on to make larger, more sophisticated “Attributes” paintings that flattered the cultural interests of his patrons, but this work is more personal and process-oriented (note the colors on the palette, which seems to have painted itself.)

CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI
View of the studio: Plato, Mademoiselle Pogany II, and Golden Bird, c. 1920
Image 1Gelatin silver print, 11 3/4 x 9 1/2 inches (29.8 x 24.1 cm). Private collection. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Brancusi’s Paris studio, now part of the attractions of the Centre Pompidou, attained mythic status even during his lifetime; Man Ray described visiting as “penetrating into another world.” Brancusi cultivated this mystique through photographs, offering densely layered, spatially confounding views of his sculptures and raw materials. Here he exploits the play of light on different surfaces, exaggerating the roundness of his metal sculptures while flattening out their wood, stone and plaster pedestals. 

LUCIAN FREUD
Two Japanese Wrestlers by a Sink, 1983-87 
Image 2 Oil on canvas, 20 x 31 inches (50.8 x 78.7 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago. Restricted gift of Mrs. Frederic G. Pick through prior gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison. © The Lucian Freud Archive/Bridgeman Images. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

In a painting that’s uncharacteristically devoid of figures (unless you count the print of Sumo wrestlers along the upper edge), Freud reduces his studio to a single, crucial fixture. He had already included the sink in the background of his earlier painting Large Interior WII (after Watteau); its presence there led one critic to comment on “the sort of all-too-visible plumbing the English are prone to accept.” Freud’s focus on the sink, with its mildewy drain and trickling taps, may have been a retort to that review. But it also makes sense that he would fixate on an object with such psychosexual resonance, one that seems to make passing reference to Duchamp’s Fountain and to anticipate Robert Gober’s sculptures.

JOSEF SUDEK
The Window of My Studio—Spring in My Garden, 1940-54 
Image 3Gelatin silver print, 9 x 6 11⁄16 inches (22.9 x 17 cm). Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Anonymous gift. © Estate of Josef Sudek. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

In photographs by Sudek, the artist's Prague studio is seen a space of ritualized confinement. His interior shots, such as Labyrinth in My Atelier (also in the exhibition), depict shelves heaving with books and papers. Even some of his views out the studio window feel mildly claustrophobic, affording only glimpses of a snowy garden through fogged-over glass. This springtime shot suggests the possibility of escape, but the oblique angle and the glass perched on the windowsill draw our focus back to the interior.

JASPER JOHNS
In the Studio, 1982
jonEncaustic and collage on canvas with objects, 72 x 48 x 5 inches (182.9 x 121.9 x 12.7 cm). Collection of the artist. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Johns combines illusionistic painting, collage, and assemblage in this enigmatic canvas, one of the show’s many evocations of the display wall. The white background, with its little drips and splatters, looks as messy as an actual studio wall and seems to support various small artworks: three drawings, a sculptural cast, a wooden lath, and a propped-up painting, to be precise. But some of these objects are three-dimensional and others are merely trompe l’oeil; the result is a studio that holds out the promise of access to an artist’s inner sanctum, but in the end remains tantalizingly off-limits.

DISCOVER

a treasure trove of fine art from the world's most renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. We offer exclusive works you can't find anywhere else.

LEARN

through exclusive content featuring art news, collecting guides, and interviews with artists, dealers, collectors, curators and influencers.

BUY

authentic artworks from across the globe. Collecting with us means you're helping to sustain creative culture and supporting organizations that are making the world a better place.

CONNECT

with our art advisors for buying advice or to help you find the art that's perfect for you. We have the resources to find works that suit your needs.

INSIDER ACCESS TO THE WORLD'S BEST ART

Artspace offers you authentic, exclusive works from world-renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. Collecting with us helps support creative culture while bringing you art news, interviews and access to global art resources.

  • COLLECT FROM 300+ GALLERIES & MUSEUMS