A famous dog is harder to find.
But both turned up at this year’s Armory Show in New York City. Billed as one of the largest art fairs in the United States, it not only pays homage to the original 1913 Armory Show exhibition that introduced modern art to New York, but it also reflects the show’s founding principle: to introduce new talent alongside the many established greats.
Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka, and Swizz Beatz were only a handful to attend, viewing works by Tracey Emin, Kehinde Wiley, Yayoi Kusama, and hundreds of others.
Then, there was Pickle.
For the past year and a half, Pickle’s owner, art adviser Katie Howard, has been photographing the 4-year-old pup with the art on display at gallery exhibitions and art fairs, posting them to Pickle’s social media presence—Pickle Beholding—and rapidly becoming the art world’s favorite mascot.
In one photo from the Armory Show, Pickle sits perched atop a rosebush-turned-work of art by Saba Innab as Pari Ehsan, who poses with art in fashionably coordinated outfits, is being photographed for her blog in the background.
Another from the Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery shows Pickle surrounded by large piles of what look to be feces. “Mom, I obviously didn’t make these…,” Pickle says of the works by Nancy Graves. “They are bigger than me!”
When I met them days later at the Art on Paper fair across town, Pickle was drawing more attention than the art on the walls. Within half an hour more than a handful of people had already stopped and asked to pet Pickle, often recognizing who she is and gathering to see her in action.
“She loves anything that resembles dog toys,” Howard tells me as she unlocked the leash. Pickle sauntered over to a piece by Ross Banfanti titled “Looking Up.” The large, tattered teddy bear sits on a small park bench inches off the ground where a small box of sod had been placed on the floor.
After some exploring, she makes herself comfortable and looks back at Howard. “Over a little more, please,” Howard says as Pickle promptly shuffles her body sideways. “A little more. Thank you.”
And with each click, the dog’s head tilts a little to the side. Is she curious to the noise or is she doing her own poses for the camera?
“A little bit of the posing is trickery,” Howard admits after asking Pickle if she wants to go to the park or a piece of cheese. “But we also did therapy training with her so she could volunteer at nursing homes,” so she listens very well. “The only reason I can do it is because she is so well behaved.”
Pickle has grown up in the live/work space environment where Howard and her fiancé, artist Nat Ward, live. “So she grew up knowing that things are very delicate.”
But after snapping Pickle’s first photo at an art gallery—one with a baby on Korakrit Arunanondchai’s runway-esque piece at Suzanne Geiss Gallery—it took Howard a couple months to warm up to the idea of having Pickle model with art.
“I was worried that it would upset people, that people would think I was undermining the importance of the art,” she said. And while she has indeed elicited a few scolds for “disrespecting” the artists’ work, we both agreed that it was no different than taking a photo of a friend with the work, or even joining the millions of people—including stars like Beyoncé—who take selfies with art.
And the majority of the art world agrees. Pickle has met, and photographed with, big-name artists like Hank Willis Thomas, N. Dash, Mark Dion, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Lucas Blalock, Trudy Benson, James Hyde, and Roxy Payne.
“There has really been a tipping point in the last two months,” Howard said of taking Pickle out with her. “I’m getting people and gallerists coming up to me asking ‘Is that the dog on Instagram,’ or ‘Is that Pickle?’” Galleries like Sean Kelly, Lehman Maupin, and others have all started requesting Pickle to come by their shows, “which is really wonderful and fun.”
So, the next time you see a French bulldog at an art gallery, don’t be surprised if you’ve spotted the art world’s favorite canine.