Nine Experiences That Are Comparable to Interning at Family Business

by Whitney Kimball and Will Brand on September 25, 2012 · 9 comments Opportunities

Monastic training at Plum Village, France

As we found out during a trip to Chelsea this weekend, a Family Business internship entails guarding art on a folding chair, in a roughly 10 x 10 foot closet space. You’re not getting paid, you don’t get a computer, and the gallery doesn’t sell anything, so you’re not exactly making useful contacts. Currently the gallery is packed with instruments, so there’s also a giant gong a few feet from your head which everybody’s invited to hit with a mallet. Sounds just like the “training which would be given in an educational environment” that is legally required of an unpaid internship, hahahahahaha!

But just for laughs, we thought we’d lay out a few academic or training scenarios which Massimiliano Gioni and Maurizio Cattelan had in mind when they tasked a presumably educated young hopeful to guard their art all day.

1. Some sort of monastic training, where you must spend your day sitting next to the prayer gong.
Is it similar? No. The monk-lings above look like they’re having a blast.

2. Security guard school
Is it similar? That’s an insult to security guards.

3. Training to be a 1950s switchboard operator
Is it similar? No, that led to a paid job.

4. Prefabricated Concrete Cell Quality Assurance Technician Training
Is it similar? Testing whether concrete cubes are up to being sat in? No, still more variety.

5. An Administrative Internship at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center
Is it similar? No. You get free lunch and a holiday party.

6. Greeter at the World’s Smallest Wal-Mart
Is it similar? No, they get a sick blue vest. And money.

7. Cosmonaut intern
You get twenty rubles a week, and you have to wait by the phone in the Soyuz capsule.

Is it similar? Close.  Spoilers: phones don’t work in space.

8. Object Permanence Confirm-er
You just sit in a room and every now and again someone calls you like “Does it still exist?” and you’re like “Yep.”

Is it similar? Yes, but that’s not a real job.

9. Assistant Secretary Internship
Will Brand was once one of two interns for the second most important secretary in the school. He sat next to a phone and parents would call in and say their kid was sick and he would say “okay” and write down that the kid was sick and hang up.

Is it similar? It wasn’t paid, but it was in an educational setting, so no.

  • http://hereisafantasy.com Corinna Kirsch

    I never knew that guy on an uncomfortable chair was an intern. Sucks for him!

  • http://www.facebook.com/petr.perepyatkin Petr Perepyatkin

    Hmmm… funny, but on the other hand, interns at Family Business got to curate their own shows at the gallery this August and got written up in Artforum http://artforum.com/diary/id=31748. And I guess personally meeting and working with Massimiliano Gioni, Maurizio Cattelan, Marilyn Minter, Linda Yablonsky, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Hennessy Youngman, and Jerry Saltz just to name a few, doesn’t count as making connections? Naturally, what is made of these internships depends upon the individual motivation and drive of the given intern. However, to assume that these positions begin and end on a chair at a small, Chelsea space ignores the reality of what goes on behind the scenes.

    • Will Brand

      The show is a fair point. I dunno about the connections. Let’s say you’ve gotten an in with Jerry Saltz, who’s about the most accessible person in the art world. What’re you going to do, impress him with your sitting skills? Drive and motivation are wonderful things, but they need to be put towards something demonstrably useful or difficult before they become real. What’s the opportunity to excel here?

      • http://www.facebook.com/petr.perepyatkin Petr Perepyatkin

        Your concern about this generally relevant issue is commendable. However, I believe that your article is lacking in facts. The Family business community is a small, interesting and very inclusive slice of the art world, and for the right type of person it might just be worth spending a few hours “sitting” per week for the opportunity to participate in: the installation/deinstallation of shows, correspond with artists/curators, coordinate and conduct studio visits, and create and manage exhibition and event schedules. Furthermore, interns are welcome to submit proposals for performances at events and then manage the logistics for those performances, as well as having their photographs run with credits on all Family Business social networking platforms (including many reposts around the web.) Last, but definitely not least, many friendships have been made working at Family Business and yes, many have enjoyed chatting with the indeed very affable Jerry Saltz… and many others;)

        • WhitneyKimball

          I saw someone sitting in a folding chair with no computer and no desk, staring at the road, in a claustrophobic space. I asked her if she got paid to do that. She said no. However long she’s committed to gallery-monitoring, the idea that maybe you’ll get to be in the presence Jerry Saltz and get your name on a photo caption on Facebook (woohoo) kinda suggests that all anybody should expect for their work is to glimpse their name flash under yours. Not only that, they should be grateful?
          The rest of those opportunities (installation, correspondance, schedule management) sound like bitch work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ruy.s.blanco Ruy Sánchez Blanco

    It is mind blowing how incredibly presumptuous you guys are in defending your assertion that interning at Family Business sucks. Your lack in originality in dancing around the same point over and over again of interns sitting in the presence of whomever, completely ignores the fact that as a gallery, the Family Business experience is centered around the events that are regularly held there in the evening and not the traditional opening hours of Tuesday through Saturday. I happen to volunteer my time at Family Business and can speak for several of us who do (although I do not claim to be able to speak for all of the interns) that the experience is beyond worthwhile and nothing like what your sensationalistic article describes. You obviously have no idea about the grants some of us have been offered, the opportunity to travel, the very private after parties, the conversations, the friendships, the list really goes on and on. Like with most things, one gets out of an experience what one puts into it, the interns who have made the greatest efforts to capitalize on this experience have gotten the most out of it, such as their own shows, support in applying for research grants abroad, articles about them published in Artforum, The New Yorker and The New York Times, and created new networks for themselves based NOT in who they met in the 3-6 hours per week of “sitting in a folding chair”, but rather at the various events where an interesting and dynamic mix of people come together in a very fun and informal setting.

    • WhitneyKimball

      No employer should expect regular donations from its volunteers, which is what 3-6 hours per week is: a donation. The fact is that people are volunteering hours of their time for work that’s not directly helping them in any way and could be a paid position for someone else.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ruy.s.blanco Ruy Sánchez Blanco

        It is your opinion that it’s “…work that’s not directly helping them in any way.” On this point, and in my case, we shall have to agree to disagree, especially after my attempt to illustrate some of the benefits in my previous post. Regarding it potentially being a paid position for someone else, I would be inclined to agree with you were it about a larger, for-profit gallery. However, Family Business is a literally tiny, labor of love that makes no profit (as your article points out) and exists simply as an experiment for the interns and exhibiting artists to stretch their creative wings. Please don’t get me wrong, I respect where you’re coming from, nonetheless, I believe that there are bigger fish to fry… for both of us… rsb out.

  • Guest

    It is mind blowing how incredibly presumptuous you guys are in defending your assertion that interning at Family Business sucks. Your lack in originality in dancing around the same point over and over again of interns sitting in the presence of whomever, completely ignores the fact that as a gallery, the Family Business experience is centered around the events that are regularly held there in the evening and not the traditional opening hours of Tuesday through Saturday. I happen to volunteer my time at Family Business and can speak for several of us who do (although I do not claim to be able to speak for all of the interns) that the experience is beyond worthwhile and nothing like what your sensationalistic article describes. You obviously have no idea about the grants some of us have been offered, the opportunity to travel, the very private after parties, the conversations, the friendships, the list really goes on and on. Like with most things, one gets out of an experience what one puts into it, the interns who have made the greatest efforts to capitalize on this experience have gotten the most out of it, such as their own shows, support in applying for research grants abroad, articles about them published in Artforum, The New Yorker and The New York Times, and created new networks for themselves based NOT in who they met in the 3-6 hours per week of “sitting in a folding chair”, but rather at the various events where an interesting and dynamic mix of people come together in a very fun and informal setting.

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