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Gallery assistant at David Zwirner Gallery in New York

Elle Perez ’11 (photography)

Posted 04.01.11 by MICA communications

Found internship ...

by making a list of my top 10 galleries and calling them. David Zwirner was my first choice for two reasons: their roster is full of artists who have been integral to my personal artistic growth, and they have their own in-house book design and a publishing agreement with Steidl.


I was drawn to this position because I had just finished curating my first show and was thinking about what it would be like to work in a gallery.


I did a lot of different things ranging from coordinating mailings of artist's books, to preparing offers on pieces of artwork, picking up artwork from the warehouse, and taking artwork to other galleries. One of my main projects was to make scale models of the different booths that David Zwirner Gallery would have at art fairs, like Frieze in London and FIAC in Paris.


I got to meet Francis Alys, Suzan Frecon, John McCracken, and Chris Ofili! I also was able to see a lot of amazing artwork first hand like rare Dan Flavin pieces and Phillip Lorca-DiCorcia photographs.


Honestly, before I worked at David Zwirner I was really intimidated by the Chelsea gallery scene. DZG is huge in the art world -- their shows are on par with many museums. The thing I found most surprising was how much of a family-like atmosphere DZG had. Every other Friday, the entire gallery sits down for lunch together. At my first "gallery lunch," one of the partners of the gallery sat down next to me and asked me how my internship was going and where I went to school. My mind was totally blown -- it was obvious that this was truly a unique place to work.

Lessons learned:

I learned a lot simply by asking questions of the people around me. Being interested in a curatorial career, I wanted to know how certain things, like artwork loans, worked on the gallery side. I also learned a lot from the way that DZG was structured and organized, because it included some jobs that I didn't even know existed before! Understanding how a gallery works internally is incredibly important for any independent curator because you're able to anticipate questions that gallery directors may have about your work. It helps you strategize which galleries are appropriate for the work you want to show, and also what the best way of gaining those opportunities is.

It also helped me to recognize areas that I can still improve, and what skills I can learn in school to help me be more desirable in the job market. I also learned how to identify what valuable skills I already have, like the ability to work with different building materials such as foam core! I was pleasantly surprised that something I learned how to do in Elements of Visual Thinking and Sculptural Forms was translating into a valuable skill at one of the top galleries in the world.

Also, using a lot of the knowledge I picked up while at DZG, myself and fellow MICA student Michelle Gomez '12 were able to put together a concise and professional curatorial proposal for a show at a Maryland gallery in June 2011.