Rebekah Chozick lives and works in New York. She is currently the Director of Rachel Uffner Gallery and was previously an Artist Liaison at Lehmann Maupin. Before that she held positions at Pace Gallery and The Armory Show. In addition, Rebekah has worked directly with artists as a studio manager, and has been the project manager on internationally published artist books and monographs.
What was your first job in the Arts?
An internship at the Amistad Center for Art & Culture, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT. This was during my junior year of college at The Hartford Art School.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
I observed what a positive impact the local community and audience can make on the direction of an arts organization. The Amistad Center maintained a very close dialogue through public programming and really put the needs and interests of the community at the forefront. I think it’s important for any arts organization to consider this, commercial or non-profit, staying accessible and connected.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I’m dyslexic and naturally gravitated towards visual arts from a young age as an alternative way to learn and express myself. I was very lucky that my public high school had a strong art department and our teachers often brought in visiting artists for lectures and workshops. One of the visiting artists was the late Tim Rollins (of collective Tim Rollins and K.O.S.) who was a successful artist and educator from New York and one of the first people to suggest I put a portfolio together and apply to art school. That’s when I realized not only did I want to pursue a career in the art industry, but it was an attainable goal despite my learning disability.
What do you do now?
I’m the Director of Rachel Uffner Gallery, a contemporary art gallery located in the Lower East Side in NYC.
Where are you from?
I grew up all over the North East. Albany, NY; Providence, RI; Hartford, CT.
What is the arts community like there?
Hartford has an interesting arts community. The Wadsworth Atheneum is the oldest continuously operating public art museum in the country. It’s a very encyclopedic collection, very New England, but I was exposed to a lot through their contemporary programming. Maybe because of that there are little pockets of artist studios around the city. But nothing in terms of commercial art galleries. I didn’t have an awareness of that side of things until moving to NYC.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Not so much in terms of geography, but my parents certainly encouraged me which made all the difference.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Take advantage of the access that working in the art world grants you. Take the opportunities to see new things and meet new people. You never know what you might learn.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Probably establishing and maintaining meaningful connections and relationships with the artists I’ve gotten to work with so far in my career. I love working with artists and anything I can do to help towards seeing them accomplish their goals, whether a small sale, a museum acquisition, a new connection, a catalogue or book, if it helps in anyway, it feels like an achievement.
What has been a challenge for you?
Trusting and articulating my own interests and instincts. The art world is vast and subjective. But I’m finding with experience if I’m passionate about something, there is usually a reason.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
Read! I try to make time to read something outside of emails and the news, whether it’s a review, a catalogue essay, even someone else’s press release. I will never be the most well-read person in the room but I try to keep informed.
And look at art! Sometimes I get so sucked into my computer the second I get into the gallery. But after being stuck at home for so long over the last year, relegated to viewing art on the screen, being able to see works in person again has been so reinvigorating. Even if it’s just stepping into our shows at the gallery. I try and take a few minutes every day to really look at art.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Very hard question. I’ve been involved in a few super weird customs investigations. Once an artist decided to ship a sculpture using an exotic animal skin as packing material. Another time I had to help prove that a box full of prosthetic legs was a part of an art installation and not medical purposes.
I didn’t have to do much in this case, but an artist I worked with once started a fire in a major museum when her sculpture made of rotting fish spontaneously combusted. It was pretty punk actually.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
I know it’s cliché but a positive attitude really does make a difference. For both an employee and boss. Also, a willingness to ask questions as an employee and being able to clearly articulate expectations as a boss.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
A genuine interest in the position and hiring organization goes a long way. Enthusiasm can separate candidates with similar experience and qualifications.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
In the workplace, try your best and don’t be afraid to ask questions that might help you understand the task at hand, or the company you work for. For interviews, be yourself.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
My advice would be to ask for advice 🙂
Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to approach the people you look up to and ask about their career paths.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
A few great ones recently! Louis Fratino’s solo show at Sikkema Jenkins, Claudia Pena Salinas at Proxy Co gallery, and Stella Zhong at Chapter NY.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
The hardest question yet! In a fantasy world, I would have a video/media art collection including works by Jonas Mekas, Pipilotti Rist, Wael Shawky, Martine Syms, and Sondra Perry. I have a long way to go since I don’t own a TV.
What artwork is in your home office?
Works on paper by John Rivas, Kari Cholnoky, Avery Z. Nelson, Austin Eddy, Joanne Greenbaum and some photographs by Patrick McNabb. Also, a painting by Anne Buckwalter and some photographs I purchased through the Pictures for Elmhurst benefit sale by Farah Al Qasimi & Sara VanDerBeek.
What is your go to snack in quarantine? And your go to soundtrack?
For snacks, nachos with pineapple salsa or watermelon. For soundtrack, WNYC. I have it on almost 24 hours a day. It’s probably not very healthy…
It can be argued that the art world is finally forced to adopt and adapt technologies that have long been a part of other industries. Agree or Disagree?
I do agree. I think that there are definite benefits to all of the online viewing rooms and the new attention to digital programming. It’s great to reach a wider public and if done correctly can make things more accessible for people who are seeking it. Although I don’t think technology can replace the experience of seeing art in person.
I bet that the online viewing rooms and art fairs are here to stay. Hopefully as a supplement to the in-person events and exhibitions, rather than the primary way to see things.
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?