Alumni Spotlight: Meet Annabel Rhodeen Spring, MA ’12
In this new Alumni Spotlight series, I am excited to introduce you to Purchase College alumni who worked at the Neuberger Museum of Art while they were students and to talk with them about where they are today.
My first interview is with Annabel Rhodeen Spring who earned her Masters in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Criticism, and Theory from Purchase College in 2012.
Annabel worked at the Neuberger Museum as a curatorial fellow and as part of her Master’s degree co-curated the exhibition Fifty Years of Latin American Art: Selections from the Neuberger Museum of Art with Patrice Giasson, the Alex Gordon Curator of Art of the Americas; she later returned in the role of Art Auction Coordinator in 2015. Annabel has been a Gallery Manager at Edel Assanti in London since 2016.
We met last week via Zoom to talk about her time at the Neuberger. Here’s a part of our conversation:
How and why did you decide to attend Purchase College’s Art History M.A program?
I was working in Visitor Services at the Yale University Art Gallery and getting ready to go back to grad school. I started doing volunteer research for one of their curators, Jennifer Farrell, and she recommended—given my interest in early 20th century American art—that I study with Michael Lobel. At the time, he was head of the Purchase graduate program. Given the size of the school and the program it was an amazing opportunity to have access to him.
How did your fellowship build up to the Fifty Years of Latin American Art exhibition?”
That’s the beauty of Purchase’s Masters program; they allowed you to do your thesis as a curatorial project rather than write a dissertation. It’s a unique opportunity and it prepared me for work in museums and galleries more readily than just writing my thesis.
Patrice had asked me to help with this show. He said it would be a great opportunity for me to not just curate a show but collaborate. Working with Patrice was such delight, I consider him my mentor.
What skills from your time as curatorial fellow did you apply in your gallery positions?
Understanding records and database, lining those up with the organization, and working collaboratively with different departments. That was the first time I had ever worked closely with a registrar and had a chance to learn and understand their database. I actually became really interested in database entry and how that aligns with what we do as curators and in managing and helping artists. I went on to Mike Cockrill’s studio to help with organization and later worked for other artists developing a microdatabase of their work. Also, having a better understanding of how museums and acquisitions work and learning more about the collectors. Those are all skills that have fed into my work in commercial galleries.
How did you end up back at the Neuberger as an Art Auction Coordinator and what did you learn from this position?
I had the opportunity to teach at Purchase part time as an adjunct professor and was supporting Dr. Sarah Warren, who was curating a show of contemporary Russian avant-garde art at the Neuberger. Dr. Tracy Fitzpatrick, the museum’s Director, approached me to help them with the auction for one of their major fundraising events.
I learned how to work closely with artists and gallery contacts. When I did the show with Patrice, all the works were already in our collections, we didn’t have any loans. For the auction, I got a lot of experience preparing materials and reaching out to try and interest people in donating work. I got kind of thrown into the whole world of development, which is very interesting. I got to learn more about finances and fundraising. Specifically, being able to prepare materials and liaise with board members and clients. I got to work with Tracy, so that was great to see how a director works. She was a really good mentor in that role as well.
How did you end up as a Gallery Manager at Edel Assanti?
My husband’s architecture firm is based in New York. He was reassigned to work in the London office so I had the opportunity to move abroad. I applied to a bunch of positions but I met someone whose close friend ran an art gallery. About three months later, my friend reached out to me because the gallery manager had just left. I interviewed, got the position at Edel Assanti, and have been there ever since. So, unfortunately (or not), the old adage is true: it’s who you know. It’s always easier to get a job when you have someone who introduces you. And it’s always useful to have a conversation with someone because you never know down the road when an offer is going to come up and you’re the person that they think to recommend.
How has the gallery management world been impacted by the pandemic, and what kind of changes did you experience in your position?
Edel Assanti has since gone back, but I’m still working remotely. As soon as everything shut down, all of our exhibitions went online. We started generating more video content and shifted to more social media. Now we are trying to find a healthy medium between digital and local engagement. There’s a localizing effect, meaning that people who are based in London are spending more time in London.
What was it like to transition Edel Assanti’s operations at this month’s Frieze London to a virtual platform?
Essentially, it’s a viewing room, so it was a lot of uploading images. We commissioned a video and worked with one of our really fantastic interns who helped us do that. It’s definitely been less hands-on in terms of an art fair, which is normally a huge amount of logistics, shipping, and coordinating. We did have an off-site installation the same week of Frieze where we hired a church and installed an exhibition of works by one of our artists named Oren Pinhassi. People came to visit, socially distanced, which was really a great opportunity [to see visitors in person].
I saw in your LinkedIn profile that you recruit and manage interns at the gallery. What qualities do you look for when choosing interns?
The big thing is being proactive. It’s about learning when to step in and when to ask questions. And it’s learning how to consolidate and manage your time. I look for interns who are really detail-oriented and who check their work. I also look for interns with varied past work experience. Some of our best interns haven’t necessarily worked in a museum or gallery but have had a lot of other jobs. And it’s finding people that are willing to get their hands dirty and can move fluidly between one task and another and are comfortable communicating with people and sharing information. Really one-dimensional answers are usually something that will draw a red flag.
What advice would you give someone interested in an internship with a museum or gallery?
It’s really about being specific when you show up. Know why you’re there. Even if you don’t remember the names of every artist, if you can describe a work that you saw in our gallery that makes me think you thought about it and haven’t just checked our website. That’s really compelling and shows that you can build relationships, which is really what the gallery world is about. If you can foster and breed those relationships, and are really interested in the works, you’re someone we want around.
As someone looking to work in arts industry, it is inspiring to see that working at campus arts institutions like the Neuberger equips students with real life skills applicable to a variety of jobs in the field. Stay tuned for more Alumni Spotlight conversations with Purchase students who interned at the Neuberger Museum of Art!
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