I loved engaging audiences with art, and following the completion of my degree course, that became my job over the next years. When my husband’s job took us to London, I was able to develop a following of people interested in lectures on various collections and exhibitions in London from The National Gallery to Sir John Soane’s Museum to London’s East End Gallery scene. Simultaneously, I developed the courage to begin collecting art myself, with a focus on the more affordable contemporary pieces. I began by purchasing photo-based work, introduced to me by a friend with expertise in editions.
In the mid-1990’s, I became frustrated with being on the fringes of the burgeoning contemporary art scene in London. Soon before the birth of my third child, I partnered with a like-minded friend to establish an art advising business called Galatea Contemporary Art Advisors. At that time, we were trailblazers in the field and very noticeable – my partner Christine’s continental style, exuberant warmth and idiosyncratic Swiss French accent made a memorable juxtaposition to my own more cerebral presentation of Ivy League American efficiency. We learned quite quickly that the galleries whose artists we personally loved and were willing to champion were open to paying us a commission on sales to new clients. Indeed, collectors of contemporary art in London were still such a rarity at that time that British gallerists welcomed us enthusiastically every time we arrived with an eager client in tow.
Galatea had a ten-year run before Christine became ill and during that time we built a reputation for innovative and creative projects. We broke into all sorts of new areas organizing social and educational art events, giving lectures, orchestrating tours of artists’ studios, whatever we could create to encourage our clients to develop their knowledge and expertise to make wise purchase decisions. We had an incredible breakthrough when we secured a contract to commission twenty new works of art for a European anti-smoking campaign for the World Health Organisation. Explaining contemporary art to NGO bureaucrats turned out to be more Dada than Realism, but the result was an exhibition of work from artists including Thomas Ruff, Miroslav Balka, Gavin Turk and Jean Bustamante that began at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and traveled across Europe.
More recently, having established my roots in London after nearly twenty years, I felt a strong desire to do something more for the city that has so graciously welcomed me. Once again I found that the art community offered me entry into a world of philanthropy and social impact. I now devote my time and energy to supporting and promoting the work of several non profit art organizations. As a Trustee of the Contemporary Art Society, for example, I’m involved in fund-raising for an organization that has been buying art for public collections throughout the United Kingdom for over 100 years. It’s invigorating and satisfying to know that my efforts directly improve the quality of the experience that audiences throughout the country have when they enter a museum. I am also a Trustee of The Bow Arts Trust which provides low-rent studio space to artists and manages a network of work-study relationships with local primary and secondary schools where art can be incorporated into the curriculum in creative ways. The Trust is dedicated to improving local art opportunities and education, specifically in the financially-disadvantaged borough of Tower Hamlets in East London.
And throughout this amazing journey, I have continued my own intimate connection with artworks and the artists who create them through building a collection for myself. With my husband’s support – both moral and financial – we have amassed a very personal body of works for our family home. If one spends enough time at it, eventually one becomes known as “a collector,” and with that label comes a huge number of invitations to a variety of “exclusive” events presented as private views (known as PVs), private previews (even more exclusive), private opening parties, private opening dinners (again, more rarefied), collectors circles, patronage schemes and special committees. For the Art Insider, or Collector, these events are where one learns which art fairs to attend, and then what to see when pitching up at the fair in Istanbul, Shanghai, Dubai or Miami. It is within these inside circles that one gets a sense for the trends, the gossip, the upcoming talent, and the inside track on key gallerists, artists, dealers, curators and collectors.
My active engagement with art over the years has given me so much: insight, friends, even an identity. I feel very fortunate that I was able to find a virtual home in the art world. It is a hospitable environment where generosity, curiosity and creativity thrive. Wherever these qualities exist I know I can always find a place to call my own.