The Dos and Don’ts of Bringing a Dog to Art World Events

Art Market

Julie Baumgardner

Guimi You, installation view of “Neighborhood” at Jessica Silverman, 2024. Photo by Phillip Maisel. Courtesy of Jessica Silverman.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the actress Chloë Sevigny noted something about dogs in New York City: They are everywhere. “The dogs are taking over, and that’s really unfortunate,” she said. “Everybody’s in Lululemon and has a f***ing dog!”

While many (perhaps a majority) will not share Sevigny’s opinion, dog ownership has shot up in recent years. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet ownership in the U.S. grew by 9.8% from 2020–2022, more than double the rate from 2009–2019, when ownership grew by 4.7%. This fact has not been lost on the art world, which has seen a notable increase in barks between fair aisles, and water-filled dog bowls at galleries.

Portraits of pooches have long fascinated artists as subjects, allegories, and homages. From the legacies of the 1st century Cave Canem Mosaic in Pompeii to Jan van Eyck’s pup in the Arnolfini Portrait (1434), dogs have long been a beloved subject for European painting. And there is no shortage of iconic modern and contemporary canine interpretations, either, with Andy Warhol’s Portrait of Maurice (1967) or Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker (1894) among them. There are even collectors who give pride of place to pooches, like Pamela and David Hornik, whose dog-heavy collection is the stuff of art world legend.

Today, our love of dogs has spread from artworks to art spaces. Dogs now accompany dealers to their fair booths, can be spotted in tote bags at biennials, and are a regular fixture at gallery openings. Kathy Grayson from New York gallery The Hole even has made her pooch Bertram the Pomeranian Instagram-famous (he has 400,000 followers—more than double that of the gallery’s) by strutting him everywhere.

But taking a dog into any of these art spaces is still a mostly untamed expanse. Many art world events lack regulations for dog owners, and it can be hard to know when a dog is a welcome presence—especially among pricey artworks and delicately hung exhibitions. Fortunately, Artsy has checked in with some enthusiastic dog-owning dealers to find out what the art-loving dog owner needs to know when it comes to minding your mutt manners in the art world.

Practice makes paw-fect

Portrait of Peggy LeBoeuf’s dog, Simone, with Oli Epp, Pillowcase, 2022. Courtesy of Peggy LeBoeuf.

Portrait of Peggy LeBoeuf and Simone with Vivian Greven, Y O I, 2024. Courtesy of Peggy LeBoeuf.

Perhaps the best way of acclimatizing a dog to the hustle and bustle of the art world is volume, says The Hole’s Grayson: “Bertie has probably been to 100 art fairs, as he is 10 [years old], and we do about 10 fairs a year,” she noted.

Getting your pooch accustomed to viewing artworks will make life easier when taking it to more challenging environments such as art fair VIP days. “Dogs always spread joy, but a gallery dog has to learn from a young age to follow the rules of the space and the artworks,” explained Peggy LeBoeuf, a senior director at Perrotin, which just declared its public support of pet-friendly gallery spaces.

Keep treats

Portrait of Jessica Silverman’s dog, Bear, at Jessica Silverman. Courtesy of Jessica Silverman.

Galleries that welcome dogs into their spaces usually do so with open arms. “This kind [of] animal connection at the gallery, it humanizes the experience, and especially if you’re an animal person, it becomes a really memorable part of a gallery visit or an art visit,” said San Francisco stalwart Jessica Silverman, who brought her pup Bear into the gallery almost every day for well over a decade. In fact, Silverman relayed that clients still come to the gallery asking where Bear is (after 17 and a half years, Silverman had to say goodbye).

“We wanted people to know dogs are welcome,” she noted of the gallery’s ethos. How does one know if a gallery is pro-pup? Stay keen to bowls of water at the door, or near the front desk—one can always be found in Silverman’s eponymous spaces. Plus, “we always used to keep treats,” she added.

Put the pup to work

Portrait of Javier Peres with Prince Harry and Max. Courtesy of Javier Peres.

Eager to get your hands on that work by that artist you’ve coveted? Looking to make gallery conversations less awkward? Well, don’t discount the canine persuasion. That’s at least for the gallerist Javier Peres, founder of Peres Projects, whose Shiba Inu, Prince Harry, and Husky, Max, are nearly always by his side. “I’m a dog person, so I love it when people bring their dogs,” he said.

Dogs can help to smooth over some of the social bumps that can occasionally occur in the art world. Having your wag-along tag-along is “more about creating a familiar culture,” said LeBoeuf. “Make sure your dog is ready to be the welcome committee.”

Beware of flying objects

“All balls and dog games are fair play at home, but be careful around artworks and sculptures at the gallery,” advised Perrotin’s LeBoeuf, whose dog Simone is another art world fixture (and was a muse for a show at New Galerie in 2021). If your dog is of a more playful predilection, be sure to keep a close eye. While everyone Artsy spoke to for this piece had minimal horror stories, Silverman had one anecdote of a piece that was broken at a client’s residence: “It actually came out that the client’s dogs had chewed through the bubble wrap,” the gallerist recalled.

Lead by example

Interior view of EXPO Chicago, 2024. Photo by Justin Barbin. Courtesy of EXPO Chicago.

Installation view of Proyectos Monclova’s booth at Frieze Los Angeles, 2024. Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. Courtesy of Casey Kelbaugh and Frieze.

Much like the point above, take a safety-first approach with your pooch. With very rare exceptions, keeping your dog on a leash is essential practice, literally.

During this year’s Venice Biennale, one visitor let his mid-sized dog wander and roam a bit too astray. While the locals are very dog-positive—“people bring their dogs anywhere and everywhere,” noted Peres—one guard had to prevent the pooch from venturing into a pavilion without his owner.

Make the art the mane attraction

It’s always worth noting that art fairs and galleries are still professional environments: While dogs are far from accessories (bark no!) or unwelcome attendees, try not to flaunt your pooch in a way that’s too ostentatious.

“Sometimes my attention span is like a fly, and if your dog is really cute, you’re never gonna buy a painting, I’m like all eyes on the dog,” laughed Peres. “That’s the only negative side of it. It’s a ME problem.”

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