62 Women Share Their Secrets to Art World Success: Part II
More career advice from the art world's best gallerists, museum curators, and PR mavens.
What are the secrets to a successful career in the art world? We asked 62 women in the upper echelons of museums, galleries, art PR firms, and art non-profits to tell us what they’ve learned over the course of their careers, and to offer their advice for women looking to break into the business (see also The 100 Most Powerful Women in Art: Part I, Part II, and Part III).
The survey did bring a few tongue-in-cheek responses.
Simon de Pury, husband and business partner of the dealer Michaela de Pury, offered this: “act like a man look like a woman,” while his better half provided more practical advice. Of course, much of what our respondents had to say will be relevant to everyone. As Daniella Luxembourg noted after delivering her words of wisdom, this was advice she “would give to women and men alike.”
Here is what the second half of our participants had to say, in no particular order. (For the first part, see 62 Women Share Their Secrets to Art World Success: Part I).
32. Nancy Spector, deputy director of Guggenheim Museum, New York
Don’t believe that you can’t reconcile all the good attributes associated with the “feminine”—compassion and a propensity toward collaboration—with ambition and a sharply-honed vision.
33. Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum, New York
Develop a steel core, grow a rhino’s hide, examine your blind spots, bring heart and head together.
34. Sarah Greenough, senior curator of head of the department of photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Faith in one’s vision, a willingness to take a leap, and a lot of hard work.
35. Jane Cohan, co-owner, James Cohan Gallery, New York
When people show up uninvited to a gallery opening dinner, just smile and say, “We’re delighted you can join us.”
36. Sherry Dobbin, director of public art of Times Square Alliance, New York
There are a lot of contradictory rules for women, and one can spend a considerable amount of time second-guessing oneself, but always stick with integrity of the work, yourself, your organization, your artists, and your partners, and you will gain trust and attract those with whom you want to work.
37. Julie Saul, owner and director of Julie Saul Gallery, New York
I don’t think there are any secrets. This is not Mata Hari… it requires creativity, commitment, resourcefulness and resilience. This month is the 29th year that I have maintained my gallery and it is always a challenge!
38. Brooke Kamin Rapaport, senior curator of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York
Heed the artist and the work—you’ll find clarity, sources of wisdom, inspiration, and problem solving.
39. Nora Lawrence, curator at Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York
Listen carefully to the artists with whom you’re working, and ask them everything you can about their process and ideas. It is a privilege to work with them. Push hard to execute their visions.
40. Terrie Sultan, director at the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York
Simply close your eyes and imagine, ideally, where you are sitting five years from today. Open your eyes and work backwards to chart the steps you will take to realize your goal.
41. Shannon Stratton, chief curator at Museum of Arts and Design, New York
Know what you believe in and stand for it in your work, but remain open to not knowing, learning, and seeing with fresh eyes.
42. Hope Alswang, director of the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida
You need passion, courage, tenacity, thick skin, and a great sense of humor.
43. Laura Raicovich, president and executive director of the Queens Museum (see Queens Museums Names Laura Raicovich President)
Listen carefully, especially to artists, build networks with intention, and always trust your gut.
44. Cara Starke, director of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Saint Louis (see Cara Starke Takes the Helm at St. Louis’s Pulitzer Arts Foundation)
Say ‘yes’ to the ideas that inspire you, challenge you, and even scare you a little.
45. Sara Fitzmaurice, founder and president of Fitz & Co, New York
Develop long-term, international relationships with the media, collectors, artists, and curators, and nurture these through year-round dialogue via social media, phone, and, most important, face-to-face meetings without the phone.
46. Maureen Donovan, deputy director (and soon to be interim co-director) of the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Along the way I’ve learned so many lessons about leadership, but perhaps the most important has to do with always thinking about what is best for the organization, continually striving to achieve that ideal, listening carefully to and respecting the expertise of others, and ultimately finding the correct balance between ambition and the human, financial, and physical resources that are available.
47. Carin Kuoni, director of the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York
The key is still in looking at the work, excruciatingly closely, precisely and for a long time, and it will all be there—the intentions of the artist and of matter, but also the relevance to core issues in society, barely articulated elsewhere, which makes contemporary art so extremely urgent and, when read properly, can have impact on and for all, regardless of gender.
48. Daniella Luxembourg, co-founder of Luxembourg & Dayan gallery, New York
Daily, continuous, hard work, with a slight detachment from the hip of the moment; trustworthy colleagues, experts, and friends you can do it with; and laughter—creativity is enhanced by it.
49. Mary Sabbatino, vice president and partner of New York’s Galerie Lelong, New York
They aren’t secrets: For those starting in the art world, try to see every part of your job, no matter how repetitive or menial it may seem, as contributing to culture and supporting artists. If you can think and act as mission-driven, it makes the difficult days more constructive. Don’t get too busy to look at art and be inspired by artists; it is the reason we all do what we do.
50. Melissa Chiu, director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (see Melissa Chiu Named Head of Hirshhorn Museum)
My true inspiration is artists. I follow my intuition—I have met some great people along the way who have supported me and my vision for the museum of the 21st century.
(Full disclosure: Melissa Chiu is the wife of Benjamin Genocchio, editor-in-chief of artnet News.)
51. Jennifer Joy, vice president and managing director at Sutton PR, New York
Take risks, both in life and in work, because those unknowns lead to the greatest rewards.
52. Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
It is always important to find a way to create a utopia under any given conditions instead of mourning over such situations. It is like a knowledgeable shepherd who gives free rein to his/her animals while being fully aware of when and how to protect them from any danger.
53. Michele Maccarone, founder of Maccarone gallery, New York
First, go to every opening, see every show, attend every lecture, read every book and magazine; then after you’ve met everyone and seen and read everything, stop paying attention to all of those things and just work hard with what you know.
54. Isabelle Bscher, co-runs Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich, St. Moritz, and Zug, Switzerland
Don’t follow trends, stick by your guns and read artnet News every day!
55. Amalia Dayan, co-founder of New York’s Luxembourg & Dayan, New York
Keep challenging your eye by looking at new art as well as older art; hence never stop learning.
56. Victoria Siddall, director of the Frieze Art Fair, New York/London (see Frieze Founders Hand Over Reins to New Director)
Listen to people, find solutions to problems, see as much art as you can, and support other women whenever you have the opportunity.
57. Kaywin Feldman, director and president of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota
It’s all about the people, and the great staff that I have had the joy to work with and learn from: they make success possible.
58. Christine Anagnos, executive director of the Association of Art Museum Directors, New York
Trust your gut, in both the decisions you make and the people you hire—and once you hire them, let them do the job you asked them to do.
59. Nathalie de Gunzburg, chairwoman of the board of trustees of New York’s Dia Art Foundation, New York
You should never be afraid to be seduced or challenged by art.
60. Jill Medvedow, director of the ICA Boston
Have a vision of art and justice big enough to change the world, and the passion and tenacity to pursue it.
61. Donna De Salvo, senior curator and deputy director for international initiatives of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (see The Whitney Announces Scott Rothkopf as New Chief Curator, Donna De Salvo New Deputy Director)
There’s art, there’s the art world, and there’s the world—understand the difference.
62. Manuela Wirth, co-president and co-founder of Hauser & Wirth, with locations in Zürich, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Somerset, UK
Always keep curious and open minded, and approach everyone you work with as if they would be a member of your family.
For more impressive art world women see 25 Women Curators Shaking Things Up, 25 Art World Women at the Top, From Sheikha Al-Mayassa to Yoko Ono, and Legendary Women Dealers You Need to Know, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.
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