Exhibition 101 – #1: Zoë Goetzmann

We finally have a podcast! The ‘Exhibition 101’ podcast will be where we uncover the best and the worst about the art world, throwing out the bad and amplifying the good.

Today’s guest is Zoë Goetzmann – founder of The Artist Workspace Gallery (AWS), writer, podcaster, and ultimate all-around art fanatic!

Zoë’s gallery is hosting an amazing pop-up exhibition in Stoke Newington next week – which you can find out more about here.

In our chat, we managed to cover pretty much every big topic in the art world, from commission fees to NFTs, tech, curation, and more…

And if you want, you can enjoy the whole podcast recording here!

Or, if you’re in a rush, check out the transcript below to see what goes is Zöe’s art world Room 101 and what she loves most about art…

So, the first question that I have is, what was the first-ever artwork that you remember that blew your mind? And you were just, like, stood in front of it and you went, wow, this is really cool? 

So, I have three answers to this question … divided [up] between [three] different stages of my life.

The earliest, I’d say would be artworks by Jackson Pollock. In my life, I was the child that would make like scribbles [and doodle constantly].

One night [when I was a small child] I [took a crayon and] drew all over my wall, and I do remember it looked like a Jackson Pollock. So maybe his work was the [intrinsic] influence and/or inspiration. And [I remember] the excuse [for deciding to doodle on the wall] was me – thinking – “I don’t have paper in my room, and so, I’ll draw on my wall with crayon.” And my parents left it up because [I think they thought] “Oh, it looks so cool!” And I think probably it looked like a Jackson Pollock because it was just [comprised of] these giant scribbles. I’d say that’s probably like the earliest…

When I was in high school — this has to do again with [the] tradition versus modern art [debacle] and turning ‘against the mode’ – I did this project for a class called, ‘AP US History’ where you could do a presentation about any subject in American History. I decided to a project on Georgia O’Keefe’s work — understanding of society’s departure from the more traditional, institutional world of the Beaux-Arts artistic school to the idea and concept of Modernism.

But, in general, I was really interested in her work, and I feel like a lot of the paintings I did in high school — especially [for this other class called] Independent Art, which had echoes of how she works on immense canvases and the colours [that] she uses, and the scale of [her work, in general] …

I think she’s definitely a key artist if you want to go back in Art History, for me.

I also really love Abstract Art. I gravitate towards artists like Gerhard Richter, more specifically. I love [his use of] colour. I love the scale and, most notably, his use of experimental revolutionary techniques (revolutionized by those specific artists during the ‘80’s and 90’s).

Any of his paintings, I think, just have that ‘Wow factor!”

I also appreciate and adore the work produced by Abstract Expressionist female artists who’ve always been so overshadowed by their male counterparts.

Because in my mind I always think: “You can know Jackson Pollock, but do you know Lee Krasner?”

I often feel that she produced work that was better than [her husband], honestly. You [also] have Helen Frankenthaler… I can just name all the artists … Joan Mitchell was the other one that I really love.

And again, it’s the colours, it’s the technique, it’s the [that I appreciate and value so much]. I think any work that has either an abstract expressionist or figurative quality – are two factors that I tend to really gravitate towards the most.

And what’s the most recent one, the most recent thing you’ve seen where you were mind blown away?

This question is also hard! They’re fun to think about…

The Anicka Yi installation at the Tate Modern [was one exhibition that I loved]. She did this Jellyfish installation at the Tate Modern … It’s kind of a perfect piece to talk about because, when I was looking at it, not only were they these huge and just beautiful creations, but of how technology was interacting with the space. [You just couldn’t ignore that feeling or perhaps maybe even intrusion].

Her work just took up an immense amount of space, and you’re very much aware of the work [and its presence]: how the artwork integrates into the space. How it’s taking up the space, and you’re very much aware of the relationship between technology and the viewers.

And I also really liked it just was a conversation starter.

It was a piece of art that brought people together – because maybe it’s also just my own observational skills that I’ve ingrained in myself as a writer – it was just fun watching families take their kids. There were so many children just like underneath [watching these giant mechanisms pass by].

That’s one of the great things about the Tate.


I think it’s funny and interesting, as well, in that space, because it’s not the upstairs bit where it’s all actual ‘art’ galleries… 


I think people kind of forget that it’s art that they’re looking at when they go in the turbine hall. 


So, they react maybe a bit less sceptically than they would do otherwise. 


But I think that’s the other thing that I pick up there is that I similarly love shows where it’s immersive. 


The one I always go back to is when I went to The Met, and it was about an exhibition about China and the west and how the two cultures that collided over the years. 


And you walk around, and it was just like you felt that you were in a film set or something. There was music, there were different lights. It wasn’t just white walls with art, which has its place, but it was just this whole kind of experience. I love that kind of thing as well… 


So, to change tack slightly… We’ve kind of gone through your story, so people know how you got here, but what would you say to someone or to yourself if you were at the start now, going, ‘I want to work in art, but I don’t know how to go about it’ – what would be your key tips for someone in that position?

Okay, this is so weird because I’m still figuring out!

I think everyone is!

I had an artist say, like, “When you have an idea,” she said, “You just kind of go for it and you know that’s going to happen. You do whatever you can to make it happen.” That’s very much how I’ve [always] been.

I think the quote we have on our site — which also speaks to why I chose the word ‘space’ [in the title of my business] as it speaks to my own personal motto and how I’ve conducted myself in both the art [and fashion worlds] honestly.

“And it goes: If you can’t find a space in your desired industry, sometimes it’s necessary to make your own or create your own.”

 The motto also aligns with why I value and love Create! Magazine (the art magazine I write for) and what its editor and team  — who I also admire — have sort of [passed along] to me as well.

But it makes sense. Yeah. Because it is true.

I think you have to make your own opportunities [when you decide to work in the arts]. You have to make your own opportunities if some [of them] don’t exist [or present themselves to you]. And social media can help with that a lot…

Yeah, definitely. I think that was where I came from as well. 


It was like: I wanted to create this [specific] kind of gallery. I was thinking about buying some art, and I was like, “I can’t find anywhere that I feel like it’s for me – even online.” 


So, I [said to myself]: “if this might work for me, maybe it would work for someone else as well.”


Now, this is my favourite question!


So, you know the concept of Room 101, the room where all the worst things in the world are… If you could take one thing in the art world and throw it into an art world Room 101, what would it be and why? 

Okay, this is also hard because I don’t want to alienate people [on both sides of the art world]. So, from a business standpoint, it’s difficult to pick [and/or choose to from].

Well: 1) I guess would be [the] barriers … and [creating] spaces, as we said [and discussed before], where different people can exist, [where] people can make their own opportunities, they can create projects that resonate with [their own interests, personal and creative sensibilities].

So, the next question, I suppose, what would you want more of to fix that exact issue or what do you want more of in the out world generally? 

I would re-evaluate the gallery system, as a whole [entity and concept]. You don’t have to throw it [or the system] away completely because I think they’re key nodes of influence. You have barriers and gatekeepers [in the art world].

Gatekeepers control all different aspects [of the art world]. There are gatekeepers within the NFT world as well.  The art world goes beyond the ‘traditional’ landscape of the art world – i.e. auction houses, commercial galleries, ‘what is considered art’ – or gatekeeping the other artists from entering into their circles.

I would start by re-evaluating the gallery system as it stands: how they work with artists,  how a gallerist manages their working relationships with artists – whether it transforms into more of a partnership – it depends how involved you are.

As a gallerist, you often feel like ‘the mother,’ you feel a need to have to foster these artists, their careers, which I would like to do.

It’s the relationship with artists [that gallerists need to concern themselves with] the services they can provide… there’s also an additional value switch between gallerists, and clients that you need to concern yourself with as well.

And maybe you don’t even need or want to do that all of that, and that’s fine. I always do more than expected anyway because that’s just who I am [as a person]. I want to give support to artists in any way that I can. But – like I mentioned before – there is a value switch – [that you need to account for which – I’m also realizing.

You want to provide those services. You also want to make sure that you sustain yourself -because – you are running a brand and a business at the end of the day.

And again, like with the fashion world, it’s so easy to use the word brand because everything’s commercial and you’re dealing with commodities, even though fashion can be art (and it probably is and should be considered as art). It’s just a different mentality, to answer your question, but I think that’s how I would make it [the art world] better.

I agree, to be honest. The reason I want to get answers to that question is that I think there’s a lot that needs to change. 


But I think that’s something I’m particularly interested in as well is how we can switch up the gallery model and how we can help artists, help people trying to help artists on both sides. I think there’s a lot of work to be done.

Zoë’s exhibition, ‘To Me, To You’ by The Artist Workspace Gallery, will be open for a private view | 3rd February 2022 6-9pm.
Then from the 3rd-6th February 2022 (9 am – 6 pm)
Location: 147, Stoke Newington High Street, London, N16 0NY

For more details and information about the artists involved, visit the AWS Gallery Instagram.

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