July 18th, 2015
At Gallery MAR, we encourage photography and interact with our gallery guests as they browse our artists’ works. In NYC, interaction with visitors is less common, but when a “selfie-inducing” show premiers one of the most well respected galleries in the world, the Iphones come out… and the visitors start to get (too!) close to the art.
“It’s the biggest selfie-generating show I’ve ever seen,” said docent Alexa West, standing at New York’s David Zwirner Gallery on Tuesday afternoon, in a show devoted to reflective works by De Wain Valentine (b. 1936).
Zwirner has taken the rare step for a commercial gallery of stationing docents at its 19th Street venue; they talk to visitors about the exhibition while reminding them not to touch the fragile works or to draw too near as they explore the show’s selfie potential.
“People want to get as close as possible, so we’re part informational, part security,” said a bespectacled Daniel Pillis, an MFA candidate at Carnegie Mellon who was sporting a necktie.
West is an art student at Cooper Union. They’re hardly the proper elderly women you might think of when you hear the word “docent.”
Zwirner has mounted a lot of highly photogenic shows that have spawned thousands of visitor self-portraits—two exhibitions by Yayoi Kusama in the last two years, and, in 2014, Jordan Wolfson’s show featuring an animatronic dancer in front of a mirror, the ultimate provocation to get out your iPhone.
The Valentine show includes nearly two dozen sculptures by the Colorado-born California Light and Space artist, made in a polyester resin that the artist developed himself. Existing varieties of resin couldn’t be cast at more than 50 pounds, as they were prone to cracking. Working with a scientist, Valentine developed a more durable brand that’s now known as Valentine MasKast Resin.
The docent job is an excellent gig, he and West agreed. “Visitors ask questions, and that leads to more questions, and then you’re in a conversation,” West said.