In Conversation: @picklebeholding

Pickle viewing the exhibition Repetition and Difference, the Jewish Museum. Images courtesy of Katie Howard and Nat Ward

The Jewish Museum recently welcomed Miss Pickle, the French bulldog who has become a New York art world and Instagram sensation. An art advisor and avid contemporary art follower, Katie Howard has been documenting her dog’s visits to leading galleries and art fairs across Manhattan by way of the Instagram account @picklebeholding. We sat down with Katie and her fiancée, the artist Nat Ward, to discuss their respective relationships with the Museum, Pickle’s experiences exploring the New York art scene, and their reactions to the Jewish Museum’s current exhibitions.

The Jewish Museum: What inspired you to create an Instagram account devoted both to your four-year-old bulldog and fine art?

Katie Howard: The idea and inspiration for the account came about really organically. Before any of it started, Pickle always came to openings and art events with Nat and me when it was appropriate. Then, a few years ago, Korakrit Arunanondchai made a runway for his show at Suzanne Geiss. There was a baby already on the runway, so we put Pickle on it too, and everyone was taking so many pictures. That was the first little flicker of the idea.

JM: Artsy included Pickle on its list of “Instagram influencers,” and The Daily Beast dubbed Pickle the “Art World’s Favorite Canine Blogger.” What do you make of Pickle’s popularity?

KH: I think the funniest title was that of a recent article with Art:I:Curate, calling her “The Art World’s Most Powerful Dog.” I continue to be amazed at the positive reactions people have to our project. The Instagram appeals to so many kinds of people, and I love that she can introduce our insulated art world to people who don’t know much about it.  Although I will say, it is strange to walk around the galleries without her now. With her, we get so much love from everyone — sometimes the entire staff at a gallery will come out and greet her.

JM: The Jewish Museum is honored to be the first museum to host Miss Pickle. Katie, how have you experienced the Museum in the past, and can you share any memories of your visits here?

Pickle viewing the exhibition Repetition and Difference, the Jewish Museum. Images courtesy of Katie Howard and Nat Ward

KH: We are so excited for the Jewish Museum to host Pickle, it really is the perfect “first” museum for us. Having grown up only a few blocks away from here, the Jewish Museum has always been a staple. For me, the most memorable exhibition in recent history, other than the shows up now, was Masters of American Comics (2006). As someone who grew up not knowing much about comics, I just loved learning about the influential role of comics as a form of entertainment and propaganda.

JM: Nat, you are also connected to the Museum, as you recently participated in our May 10 program In Response: Repetition and Difference, which invited Columbia University Visual Arts MFA candidates and alumni to mount time-based projects in response to our exhibition Repetition and Difference. Like Pickle, you took over the institution for a day and shared your video piece on the Museum’s wayfinding screens. How is your work Autoequivalent 1 & 2 (excerpt) in dialogue with the exhibition, and what was it like to present your piece at an institution like this?

Nat Ward: I decided to respond to both the process and meditative intent of N. Dash’s Commuter series as well as to the ritual objects from the Museum’s collection that add meaning and spiritual depth to repetitive iterations of daily movement. I mapped my own daily movement for two days with a video camera recording the sky as I drove from my home to the location of my current project in south Florida. You can view an excerpt of the video piece here: https://vimeo.com/130468100. The Museum has such a rich history of curatorial innovation and scholarship. I’m excited to have participated in the further development of that programming. It’s amazing to have an opportunity like that as a young artist.

JM: @picklebeholding has become a one-stop shop for hearing about what’s on at major galleries and, of course, for indulging in adorable puppy pictures. How do you select which exhibitions to visit? Do you ask galleries and fairs for permission to bring Pickle along, and do they ever seek you out? We, for one, couldn’t resist reaching out to Pickle.

KH: Pickle and I spend two to four days a month trying to hit as many galleries in Chelsea and the Lower East Side as possible. We typically stick to ground floor galleries because Pickle is really afraid of stairs. I don’t ask galleries for permission, but I now know which don’t allow dogs. I do ask permission at fairs and museums because their policies are different, and I wouldn’t want to upset anyone with what we are doing. A few institutions have reached out to me — The Armory Show and the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) have both been so welcoming, even issuing Pickle her own press pass.

JM: Pickle has been pictured sitting on sculptures at the Armory Show, and she is always off the leash around apparently fragile, and often valuable, works of art. Have you experienced any backlash in response to posing a dog near (or on) such works? We imagine that not all artists and gallerists would be pleased.

KH: Pickle and I are always extremely cautious around art and sculptures. She is off leash when we take the pictures, but she is on leash at all other times — and once the photo is snapped, the leash goes right back on. And, to clear the record, whenever she is sitting on art directly, I always ask permission from the gallery as well as often from the artist. There was very little backlash from the start, and practically none now that she is more well known. But, if I ever sense there might be an issue, I ask permission, and do my best to do so within guidelines that make the artist and gallerist happy.

JM: Pickle has explored the temporary exhibitions Revolution of the Eye, Laurie Simmons: How We See, and Repetition and Difference. Any sense of her reaction to the moving images, contemporary and modern paintings, photographic portraits, and historic objects and Judaica on view? Crossing our fingers that our exhibitions are up to sniff.

KH: I really loved all of the exhibitions! Especially Repetition and Difference, which is a wonderful show that brings cultural and historical references to contemporary art, and vice versa. Pickle is a dog, so she mostly loves the attention and meeting new people when we go to galleries and museums. And she absolutely loved her Kosher dog bone toy — a perfect gift from the Jewish Museum Shop! She has been showing it to everyone.

Pickle wearing a Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings: Chantal Joffe exhibition scarf, the Jewish Museum Shop. Images courtesy of Katie Howard and Nat Ward

JM: Finally, what can we expect for Pickle’s future art adventures? We hope to see her back at the Jewish Museum in the fall; she may like the status quo-breaking contemporary art featured in the upcoming group show Unorthodox

KH: We would love to come back to the Museum in the fall! Right now we have expanded from just the Instagram to also a website, artblogdogblog.com. It features more images from each exhibition than we show on Instagram. We are working on scheduling more studio visits and interviews with artists. We are also looking into collaborating with artists to create doggy art apparel!

Check out our Instagram and Facebook for more photos of Pickle @TheJewishMuseum!

— Julie Reiter, Marketing Associate, the Jewish Museum, with thanks to Samantha Sharon, Marketing Specialist

Please note that while the Museum is service dog friendly, pets are not generally allowed.