The Art World at Home: Becca Hoffman Is Organizing the Intersect Aspen Art Fair and Making Cheese to Relieve Stress

Hoffman is the director of Intersect Aspen, which opens online on July 22.

Becca Hoffman.

The art world is slowly coming out of lockdown, but many decision-makers and creatives are still staying close to home. In this series, we check in with curators, historians, and other art-world professionals to get a peek into their day-to-day.

Fair director Becca Hoffman, who oversees Intersect Art and Design’s three fairs in Aspen, Chicago, and Palm Springs, had a rare experience these past few months: taking on a new job in the middle of quarantine.

But Hoffman, who was previously the director of the Outsider Art Fair, still pulled off the Intersect Aspen fair, which opens online this week.

She told us about her personal art collection, what’s on her spice rack, and what famous art-world figures she’d like to have dinner with.

What are you working on right now? 

I am working on the final preparations for our first virtual edition of Intersect Aspen, launching July 22 at 2 p.m. EST. I’m so pleased to have had such an overwhelmingly positive response, with 110 galleries from 28 countries.  

Walk us through the when, where, and how of your approach to this project on a regular day. 

Having taken on a new role on March 1, my entire journey to date with this project has been a unique and exciting challenge. 

Normally, I would have spent the past five months traveling, networking, visiting galleries, collectors, institutions, and more. But having been grounded, I have had to transition all of those conversations virtually. It has been a process, but I think the results are in the quality of our gallery list, our dynamic and dedicated cultural and nonprofit partners, and our exciting programming. 

What is bothering you right now (other than the project above and having to deal with these questions)? 

I am truly missing the opportunity to see and experience art and culture in person. I toured around the Public Art Fund’s Art on the Grid project on the Upper West Side [of New York] and watched Hamilton on Disney Plus, but I am looking forward to returning to the opportunity to experience all of the wonderful and amazing in-person cultural moments that make New York City special, from jazz clubs in Harlem to plays on Broadway. 

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

You know, the first thing that comes to mind is Jon Stewart’s new film, “Irresistible,” a fun and light political satire comedy. 

But to add on to that, one thing that these times have made me appreciate profoundly is interpersonal and in-person connection. Any time spent with dear friends and family, whether on a walk or outside, is such a treat and joy and always brings some form of laughter. It’s these moments of togetherness that we used to take for granted that I am now so thankful for. 

Are there any movies, music, podcasts, publications, or works of art that have made a big impact on you recently? If so, why? 

Podcast-wise, I always listen to the New York Times‘s the Daily, NPR’s How I Built This, Women Who Travel, This American Life, The Happiness Lab, the BBC and NPR news podcasts.

Truly, the most memorable music moment since March was Andrea Bocelli’s Easter Sunday concert from Il Duomo in Milan. His rendition of Amazing Grace brought me to tears. This song holds a special place in my heart as my family plays it on Thanksgiving and brings back so many memories of happier times together.

What is your favorite part of your house and why? 

My spice rack. I bring back spices from every place I visit. Some highlights are Omani za’atar, Sri Lankan smoky black pepper, French sel gris, Mexican green mole powder. 

Becca Hoffman's spice rack.

Becca Hoffman’s spice rack.

What’s your favorite work of art in the house and why?

I collect primarily text-based art and like to buy one piece from one exhibitor at each fair I produce. However, I also have a lot of pieces that have special personal touches and the list of favorites is long, each with their own story.

In my bedroom is a painting by David Bierk titled Life that my mother gave me on my 21st birthday, a transitional time in life when one is learning who they are and what the future holds. 

David Bierk, Life.

David Bierk, Life.

Additionally, right next to my front door is a piece by a British self-taught artist, Albert, purchased at the 2016 Outsider Art Fair in Paris, when I was the director. I purchased this piece in honor of moving into this apartment a few months prior and it always brings me such joy to walk in the front door and see. 

Are these any causes you support that you would like to share? 

God’s Love We Deliver, a New York City-based organization that delivers home-cooked meals for those who cannot cook for themselves. 

In normal times, I volunteer monthly in their kitchens chopping vegetables and on Thanksgiving coordinating their meal deliveries. 

As a child, I volunteered with my mother in a soup kitchen and those childhood experiences instilled in me the need to give back to those in need through their food and nourishment. 

What is your guilty pleasure?

To tune out, romantic comedies. The era of Meg Ryan and before are a definite. We all need that mental switch-off and those accomplish it for me. Most recently, things like the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel have been pretty excellent!

Also, I’m having a major love affair with pet nats: naturally sparkling wines starting to come to the US more and more as of late. Channing Daughters Winery on Long Island makes some amazing ones! 

For some self-care and pampering, a good Thai massage. 

What’s going on in the kitchen these days? Any projects? And triumphs or tragedies? 

The kitchen is one of my areas of stress relief. 

Normally, I love to host a rooftop Bastille Day party with 50 to 60 people. This year, obviously that was not an option, so instead I made supper in my home.

What was on the menu? Ardith Mae’s Mammuth Cheese with a nectarine, basil, fig balsamic glaze compote, accompanied by Runner & Stone’s buckwheat baguette.

Followed by homemade heirloom tomato gazpacho, topped with a baguette crostini of homemade cheese and sautéed zucchini blossoms.

Then butter-braised local fennel, topped sockeye salmon on a bed of lemon, parsley, anchovy sautéed haricots verts. 

Accompanied by all the rosé of course!  

Becca Hoffman's Bastille Day dinner.

Becca Hoffman’s Bastille Day dinner.

Which two fellow art-world people, living or dead, would you like to convene for dinner, and why? 

Well the obvious and easy answer is my mother, but I have the pleasure of getting to see her often.

I come from a long line of trendsetting, bold, powerful, and hard-working women who are true trailblazers and hold the belief that anything is possible. I have always been inspired by that ethos so my dinner guests echo that.

Number one would be Peggy Guggenheim. As a collector, she collected in the way I believe one should collect—out of love. She opened a gallery in London just before World War II and her collection in Venice opened to the public in 1951. She truly revolutionized the current art world.

Number two would be Hilma Af Klint, an artist whose breathtaking abstraction predated many of her male greats of the period (Kandinsky, Mondrian, and more). Inspired by spiritual practices, Klint functioned to the beat of her own drum, creating meditative, magical moments on canvas that she specifically stipulated she did not want shown during her lifetime. How cool is that? She did not want the world’s outside noise affecting her work, and that is something that is truly inspiring.

Bonus: Where would you want the dinner to be, and why?

At Chez Panisse, the creation of another trailblazing woman, in a different industry, but one that is near and dear to my heart, Alice Waters.

Waters revolutionized the way Americans think, engage, enjoy, and interact with food. From an interest in locally sustainable architecture to a focus on knowing your farmers and stimulating the farm-to-table movement and eating seasonally along with instilling the need for our future generations to be mindful of food. Food in America today would not be the same without her impact. 

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