Sharon Coplan Hurowitz keeps her hand in the art and fashion scenes better than anyone we know, so her latest project is a must-have for every contemporary art fan in your life. Alongside co-writer Amanda Benchley, the duo has enlisted some of the most celebrated contemporary artists today—Marina Abramovic, George Condo, Will Cotton, John Currin, Thomas Demand, Rachel Feinstein, The Hass Brothers, KAWS, Alex Israel, and more—to design a unique art project in their new book: OPEN STUDIO: Do-It-Yourself Projects by Contemporary Artists. The title tells you what it’s about, and here, Coplan Hurowitz tells us how it all came together.
How did the idea of OPEN STUDIO come about? Tell us about the concept.
The inspiration for creating OPEN STUDIO came from an artwork by Jasper Johns entitled, Target, 1971. The artwork is a printed outline of a target along with real-life art supplies (a paintbrush and three watercolors affixed to the paper), and Johns leaves room for you to collaborate and sign your name. OPEN STUDIO is likewise the opportunity for you to be the artist. We invited 17 of the most celebrated contemporary artists to contribute art projects for you to make at home. Some artists even designed removable and usable inserts– from stencils to cutouts—to make the projects personalized, interactive and fun. OPEN STUDIO starts with the artist and is completed by you.
What’s your background in the art world?
I’m an independent curator and fine art publisher. I publish special editions with artists and my most recent projects include a Christopher Wool print for the art issue of W, a Jasper Johns print for Art in America’s 100th Anniversary, and an Ellsworth Kelly dress for the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Francisco Costa [Former Calvin Klein Collection creative director.] I am the author of John Baldessari: A Catalogue Raisonne of Prints and Multiples. Previously, I was a specialist in the contemporary print department at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
You have some major names included in the book. Who are some of the artists in the pages?
My co-author Amanda Benchley and I are so grateful to the 17 contributing artists in OPEN STUDIO. Many of the artists in the book are our friends, so it was natural and fun to work together. Contributing artists include Marina Abramovic, George Condo, Rachel Feinstein, The Haas Brothers, Alex Israel, KAWS, and Mickalene Thomas. These artists opened their studios and designed projects to share with you.
Did you work with the artists on the kind of projects that they would contribute or did you give them free rein to do as they wished?
For OPEN STUDIO, we gave the artists carte blanche to create the project they wanted to share. The only requirement for the project was to make it easy to follow and to use materials that could be found at home or at an art supply store. I worked closely with each artist on their art project and helped to fabricate the inserts according to their specifications. The process was similar to making an edition. Each artist approached their project differently and required varied levels of assistance. For Lawrence Weiner, I sourced art supplies for the project, as well as oversaw the fabrication of the stencil which was extra special.
What was it about the book or the “challenge” that appealed to these artists?
The invitation to participate in OPEN STUDIO was an unusual request. I think the artists like the challenge of making an art project, because it was something that was accessible and could be shared with a broader audience. Artists take risks, and OPEN STUDIO provides an opportunity for the artist to collaborate with the reader. I think the artists were attracted to the idea that his or her project constantly changes and reflects the creative voice of the reader.
Where will the book be available?
You can find OPEN STUDIO at Dover Street Market N.Y. and L.A, which recently hosted a pop up, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art bookstore (it’s featured in the holiday catalogue!), as well as at two of my favorite local booksellers: The Strand and The Corner Bookstore. It is also available on Amazon and through my publisher Phaidon’s online site.
We read in the book you’re a D.I.Y. enthusiast. Tell us a little more about that! What kind of projects do you create?
I am lucky to have an art studio in my home, and I keep it stocked with art supplies. I love making things with found materials, in particular collage. I spend most of the time in my studio staging projects from OPEN STUDIO and to try out new ideas for my publishing projects. My little studio is my favorite place.
Have you done any of the projects in the book?
I have made almost all of the projects in the book, some of them multiple times. In particular, Rashid Johnson’s Love in Outer Space is a project using spray paint and grains that transform into an unexpected celestial scene. Sarah Sze’s Weather Vane is a project that uses a few simple materials—including the artist’s designed inserts—to create a kinetic, hanging mobile. And Will Cotton’s The Royal Crown of Candy Land is a project using candy pieces and gold foil paper that becomes a wearable crown. Each project offers a different opportunity to collaborate with an artist. You can follow the step-by-step instructions, or you can alter and even abandon the instructions to make something all your own.
You are also such a fashion person! What has this year been like with a minimum of options to go out and go somewhere?
The pandemic has put everything on pause including invitations and outings to my favorite places—art gallery and museum exhibition openings, the theater, ballet, and other non-profit events. These are the places for which I love to get dressed. Zoom is hardly a motivation for me to get dressed, but it reminds me constantly how much I miss and value being at events in person. The ritual of getting dressed and presenting myself is a part of the whole process. Instead of going out, I have watched a lot of fashion shows online, which has been a saving grace (not to mention my fashion idol Moira Rose’s outrageous character on Schitt’s Creek!) I’ve been shopping in my own closet, and I found so much joy in putting things on, even if it was just for me. I am optimistic that we will get out of our leisurewear and get dressed again. I often think of my friend Bill Cunningham and get inspired. Many of the artists in OPEN STUDIO collaborate with fashion houses and have incredible style.
How has art helped you get through this year?
Seeing art and being around artists is always an inspiration for me. Throughout the pandemic, many of the artists in OPEN STUDIO were able to continue their work alone in their studios, which was encouraging. Art is a sign of our humanity. Art has always been a source of comfort to me, and especially now seems fundamental to our happiness and well-being. I recently attended a COVID-sensitive live performance by Bill T. Jones created during the pandemic. At the beginning of the performance when the stage went dark, I felt an electric rush throughout my body. It was the best feeling—because art brings us hope.
What other projects are you working on?
Right now, I am working on two other projects. I am the co-publisher of the MET 150th Anniversary Portfolio, a portfolio of prints by contemporary artists to benefit the institution, releasing in spring. I have been working with colleagues at the MET, with the participating artists, and the renowned printer, Gemini G.E.L., to get this special project ready. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project and I am honored to be involved. Also, I am writing the print catalogue raisonné for the artist Bruce Nauman. A catalogue raisonné involves a tremendous amount of research and attention to detail, and I love diving deep into the artist’s work and bringing it together. Bruce Nauman’s artwork is challenging and I have help from a brilliant PHD candidate, Hadley Newton, who keeps me on track.