The art of the perfect fit

Working in the Arts: Hooper Turner

Posted by Emma Restall in Interviews · February 2024

This month’s Working in the Arts segment focusses on the US and this week we spoke with Hooper Turner who is the Registrar for White Cube, New York.

So, where do you work?

I work at White Cube, a very well known and respected UK-based art gallery with international locations. I work in the New York gallery on Madison Avenue, which only opened last Fall (2023).

What is your job title?

I am the New York gallery’s registrar. I suppose I was hired as “Senior Registrar,” but I keep it simple on my signature line. I am the only registrar for the gallery in New York, so maybe I will see if I can make “Solo Registrar” a convincing title.

What time did you wake up? What are you usual working hours?

I wake up around 7:30 am for my commute from Upper upper Manhattan to the Upper East Side. Technically my hours are 10-6, but I try to get in around 9:30 and end up leaving around 6:30 to 7pm. The mornings until 1pm are a hustle as New York tries to catch up with London before they close. I feel like I have two days each day: 9:30 – 1 and then 1 – 6:30.

What are your key tasks?

Since we are a small team in New York, I wear many hats, which is very much what I like. I coordinate logistics of the gallery’s inventory and make sure I am aware of artworks that are coming and going, including setting up viewings for our sales team with their clients. I work with several artist’s estates and with the secondary market team on consigning works to the gallery. I monitor the condition of the art and make sure it gets photographed, crated, etc. With White Cube’s large international presence and sheer size, sometimes it’s a bit like air traffic control!

What skills/ attributes/ values do you believe are vital for roles like this?

I think a sense of organization of course and persistence. Also, the ability to think ahead so things-such as an artwork being where it needs to be and in a condition to show at the right time with the right people-happen as smoothly, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. What is always helpful to me in a pinch is to try to understand the fundamentals of what we do as a gallery and why we do it. The fundamentals can change and certainly have nuance, but that focus keeps me from mindless tasks so I can hopefully put my energy where it matters. Improvisation is also an asset!

What was your career path to this role?

I have a Master’s degree in Painting and Drawing and moved to New York to have my experience as an artist. I began working with art galleries out of necessity and then from dedication and enjoyment. My experience in the past has been with smaller but well-known galleries-Max Protetch (who is now retired), Michael Rosenfeld Gallery and Mitchell-Inness & Nash. Being in those environments really helped me to understand the fundamentals of an art gallery that I mention above. I also worked in a project position for MoMA for a few years, but I much prefer the pace and excitement of the commercial art world.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

There are many wonderful things about my job. Aside from working with and supporting some of the greatest artists of the 21st century, I am amazed at the talent and competence of my colleagues. I don’t think I have ever worked with so many dedicated, highly skilled people, and they inspire me to be better and work harder! The worst part is having to disappoint a colleague or client or artist, because logistically I can’t make something happen. Dealing with very valuable physical objects that can get flown around the world several times over, it sometimes happens that, try my best, I just can’t get an artwork where it needs to be at the right time. (Most) artworks are not something that can be transited online so there can be some contingencies in the real world that can spoil a well-laid plan!

What careers advice would you give to your 18 year old self with the benefit of hindsight?

Try to learn as much as you can about all aspects of your business, while understanding how those aspects contribute to the “big picture.” Also, develop solid relationships with people in your industry as these people can help you to get the job done-and vice versa.

Have you had a secret job that is not on your CV?

Haha. Superficially, it has nothing to do with art per se, but I spent a Summer delivering movies to theatre’s (when movies were actual film in big heavy canisters) in the US South in a very large van. I had zero knowledge of how to do this. This was also before GPS so I had to use paper maps and think strategically so these small movie theatre’s could open their summer movies in time. Every week, all my co-workers quit except for me, so by the end of the Summer, I was making quite a lot of money, which I used to spend the Fall in France! This job was an
education in strategic thinking and persistence.

Finally, what career advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid of doing what really interests you, rather than striving after what you think you should be doing!

Thank you to Hooper for taking the time to talk to us and look out for future insights into the art world. Photo Credit – Sophie Bestard.

Notes from DRAW · 27.02.2024

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