Helping hand: Luxembourg & Dayan explores the role of the artist’s assistant

Helping hand: Luxembourg & Dayan explores the role of the artist’s assistant

Be it Raphael, Rembrandt or Rubens, the notion of artists commanding workshops with a fleet of assistants to produce a plethora of paintings is an age-old tradition. Yet there’s been little exploration of the degree to which contemporary artists have influenced their assistants in terms of style, imagery and technique. To remedy that omission, Luxembourg & Dayan on New York’s Upper East Side is showcasing ‘In the Making: Artists, Assistants, and Influence’.

Boasting a formidable lineup that includes Robert Gober, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, the show pairs the artists’ seminal creative endeavours with that of their assistants. In total, 20 creatives are represented.

‘We wanted to throw into relief how a number of assistants, who work under the shadow of a revered artist, borrow images and more while eventually becoming a master in their own right,’ says Tamar Margalit, who curated this show with Amalia Dayan.

While Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory first springs to mind when it comes to assistants churning out reams of art, few are aware that George Condo was among the many who laboured in that downtown studio. On view is Warhol’s pop art touchstone, Howdy Doody, 1981, in a magnetic red, which Condo personally silkscreened. Nearby is Condo’s Television Silkscreen (Howdy Doody/Mr. Howell), only his rendition, completed 17 years later, is in a subtler palette. ‘They reveal a visual dialogue and how that image circulated in Condo’s mind,’ Margalit says.

Similarly, Urs Fischer’s surreal Body Parts Untitled, 2006, featuring everything from an ear to a nose rendered in polyurethane and plaster, hover overhead in the gallery. That work is ‘in conversation’ with his assistant Darren Bader’s video of portions of the human body floating in space.

‘These are just a window on to artistic conversations – and with Jeff Koons and Matthew Barney and others taking on assistants at a steady clip, this is just the tip of the iceberg,’ says Margalit.

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