32 Women Share Their Secrets to Art World Success: Part III
Don't miss the latest batch of art world career advice.
Earlier this year, artnet News reached out to women working at the top tiers of museums, galleries, art PR firms, and auction houses, asking them to share their secrets to success. (See Part I and Part II.)
The results were so illuminating, that we couldn’t resist doing a third installment. Below, 32 art professionals share their advice for women looking to break into the business.
1. Florence Derieux, director, FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France, and curator, Parcours 2015, Art Basel
Always work hard, always stay focused, always see the bigger picture, always be considerate.
2. Kristine Bell, senior partner, David Zwirner, New York
Know your worth and surround yourself with talented people. Always be a filter for what you think is great. Take the time to understand things deeply and mentor the young people coming up.
3. Ruth Estévez, gallery director and curator, REDCAT, Los Angeles
Accept that the art world is a miniscule part of the universe. Always take risks. If you want to get different results, you’ll have to do something different!
4. Jenny Dixon, director, Noguchi Museum, New York
For every no, offer three yeses. Treat all people with equal respect. Keep your focus on the prize.
5. Susan Fisher Sterling, director, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
Become a creative enabler. My secret to success is making sure others can be highly successful and productive too.
6. Angela Westwater, co-founder, Sperone Westwater gallery, New York
Be persistent and passionate—it may take years for a particular project to come to fruition, but the effort is well worth your time.
7. Sukanya Rajaratnam, partner, Mnuchin Gallery, New York
Stay true to yourself, your vision and the art. The rest is all fluff.
8. Concetta Duncan, assistant vice president, Sutton PR, New York
Leap ahead and fill in the gaps later. And don’t be afraid to put your heart on the table in the process.
9. Amanda de la Garza, curator, Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City
Be professional and consistent. Work with passion, risk and intuition, and in an ethical way with artists and coworkers; exhibitions are always a result of teamwork.
10. Rocio Aranda Alvarez, curator, El Museo del Barrio, New York
My job exists because of artists. I never forget this and I am constantly learning from them. They will always be a tremendous inspiration for my work.
11. Noreen Ahmad, director, Sutton PR, New York
Complex questions generally have simple solutions. Keep it simple.
12. Mary Ceruti, executive director and head curator, SculptureCenter, New York
Be open, curious and willing to learn. Seek, nurture, and respect talent in all of its forms. Don’t assume anything is a given, whether its the canon, the market, or your own current success.
13. Vilma Jurkute, director, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
Believe in yourself, and then work twice as hard as you think you should. Research, initiate, stay curious and with each project ask yourself “How could I be doing it better?”
14. Tamsen Greene, senior director, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Working in the art world is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and prioritize as there is too much to do and see. See less, but be present when you do.
15. Jinqing Caroline Cai, president, Christie’s China, Beijing
No label can suffice the secret to success for a woman because being a woman is not something you do as much as something you are. Enjoy the power and beauty of being you. There is so much possibility before you and the limit is only yourself.
16. Connie Butler, chief curator, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Art history is slow but mutable; keep close and listen to the artists, who are actively shaping it.
17. Deborah Harris, managing director of the Armory Show‘s modern pier, New York
When I first came to New York, my friends and I organized these monthly “Euro breakfasts.” We would invite friends who were in town from overseas and meet for coffee before work to share information and our experiences. It helped me build a great network of international colleagues. So my advice is to be curious and open to new ideas and new people. Offer your experiences in exchange for others’ and connect people when you can. Above all, follow your passion, the success will come.
18. Andrea Rosen, founder, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
I think it is really helpful to acknowledge how fortunate we are to be in a community that is primarily based around ideas and progress. We can so easily be fueled by inspiration and rigor.
19. Risha Lee, curator of exhibitions, Rubin Museum of Art, New York
Take risks, dream big, and be kind to others.
20. Paula Wallace, president and founder, Savannah College of Art and Design
Intentionality: That is the key.
21. Jennifer Blei Stockman, president of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, with museums in New York, Bilbao, Venice, and Abu Dhabi (forthcoming), and 2015 patron of the arts recipient, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass, Colorado
Be open-minded, see everything, stay curious, think global, do your own research, ask for advice, but don’t necessarily rely on it. Make decisions with your eyes and NOT your ears, and most importantly, trust your intuition.
22. Tiana Webb Evans, founder and managing director, ESP PR, New York
Be generous with your time and talents; be sure to have a clear understanding of how your success will be measured and stay focused; take the time to develop strong relationships because they are the foundation of your business; and last but not least never underestimate another person’s trajectory: you never know where someone will end up, your willingness to mentor is rarely forgotten.
23. Caroline Bourgeois, curator, Pinault collection, Paris, Venice, and beyond
For me, the most important thing is to consider art as an absolute necessity in your own life, to include it as a core part of yourself. And then to have the desire to share that feeling, and to keep questioning what you know and what you learn and therefore what you can offer to the artists, to the public and indeed to all the people you cross paths with.
24. Elizabeth Sackler, chair, Brooklyn Museum, New York
So often, people oppose an idea and simply say, “it can’t be done,” but I say, “if it’s a really good idea, let’s figure out how to do it.” Be constant and consistent until something is achieved. I’d say most everything is doable, but really good things should always be accomplished!
25. Shamim M. Momin, director and curator, LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division)
Don’t forget why you’re here, listen carefully to artists, know the difference between when you should learn from and when you need disagree with, take responsibility for yourself, and never, ever, underestimate the value of having great people work for and with you. Most importantly, have a sense of humor. This—and all—life is gloriously, magically absurd and needs to be enjoyed.
26. Marilyn White, founder, Marilyn White Public Relations, New York
Think like a journalist, not a flak. Be intelligent about what
and to whom you are pitching and above all be honest with your client. Of
course, everyone wants to be covered by the NY Times or
WSJ, but it’s not always going to happen. Educate them to the
benefits of different online platforms and social media which are
equally important! And always say thank you.
27. Alison Gingeras, independent curator and writer and adjunct curator, Dallas Contemporary
Become fluent in at least one other language. Live abroad whenever possible. Immerse yourself in the culture, intellectual life, politics, and community wherever you land. Channel your inner Zelig. Allow these experiences to challenge your received ideas and inform the pursuit of your vocation.
28. Jennifer Gross, deputy director for curatorial affairs and chief curator, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts
Pursue your passions for art and life in equal measure.
29. Vishakha N. Desai, president emerita, Asia Society, professor and special advisor for global affairs to the president at Columbia University, and senior advisor for global programs to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York
I chanced upon the art world by connecting with public school kids at the Cleveland Museum of art more than four decades ago. I learned a few lessons then and over time that have served me well: Have passion for serious engagement with art and for the power art to engage all kinds of people, not just the elites of the society. But combine that passion with a serious study of a field. Passion and connoisseurship then need to work with an ongoing curiosity and questioning the established canon, the current fads, and willingness to take risks to break open ways of looking, making, and presenting art.
30. Sheena Wagstaff, chairman of the department of modern and contemporary art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
To have the credibility and integrity (personal and professional) for inspiration to take wing—and the passion it unleashes to take risks if necessary. And to temper single-minded purpose by learning from the smart, good people around you. And never forget to say thank you to them, always. And remember that in this vast world, our art world fiefdoms are small and as our bones crumble, it is the art that will survive.
31. Pearl Lam, founder, Pearl Lam Galleries, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore
Follow your heart, trust your own judgement, and be dedicated to things you believe in. Find genuine enjoyment in what you do.
32. Casey Jane Ellison, host, writer, and producer of Touching the Art, Los Angeles
Whoever has the most fun wins.
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