The art of gallery management with Kristen Becker, Director Marianne Boesky Gallery
A CAREER IN THE ART WORLD TRADITIONALLY STARTED WITH AN ACADEMIC DEGREE IN STUDIO ARTS OR ART HISTORY. FOR SEVERAL DECADES NOW, ALTERNATIVELY, AUCTION HOUSES HAVE OFFERED COMPREHENSIVE AND ENGAGING EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS THAT PROVIDE NOT ONLY ART HISTORICAL STUDY AND CONNOISSEURSHIP BUT ALSO AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ART MARKET, THE GALLERY WORLD AND TO PRIVATE COLLECTIONS. IN GENERAL, THE IMPACT OF THE GLOBAL ART MARKET AND THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SOPHISTICATION THAT THIS CLIMATE COMMANDS HAS PROMPTED A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN THE SCALE AND SCOPE OF ART MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS WITH A VIEW TO UNDERSTANDING THE ART MARKET FROM THE INSIDE.
ONE OF THE EFFECTIVE AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING METHODS OF ADVANCEMENT FOR A CAREER IN THE ARTS, HOWEVER, WAS ESTABLISHED AT THE ADVENT OF THE GALLERY SYSTEM: THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK IN DIFFERENT JOB POSITIONS IN A VARIETY OF GALLERIES. IT IS REALLY THE BEST WAY TO LEARN FIRST-HAND A GALLERY’S MULTI-FACETED FUNCTIONS AS AN EDUCATOR TO THE PUBLIC, A SUPPORT FOR THE ARTIST AND A SOURCE OF EXPERTISE FOR THE COLLECTOR.
KRISTEN BECKER, AT MARIANNE BOESKY GALLERY, HAS A PARTICULARLY RICH PROFESSIONAL HISTORY IN THE GALLERY WORLD THAT HAD BROUGHT INSIGHT AND EXPERTISE TO HER CURRENT UNIQUE POSITION AT MARIANNE BOESKY AS A DIRECTOR SPECIALIZING IN MUSEUM MANAGEMENT. http://www.marianneboeskygallery.com/
BOESKY GALLERY OFFERS A RICH TWENTY-YEAR HISTORY OF REPRESENTATION OF BOTH EMERGING AND ESTABLISHED ARTISTS AND OFFERS ITS AUDIENCE A SOPHISTICATED SYNERGY BETWEEN THE TWO. AS EXEMPLIFIED BY THEIR BOOTH AT MIAMI ART BASEL LAST DECEMBER, THE GALLERY’S INSTALLATION OFFERED A DYNAMIC DIALOGUE BETWEEN AN EARLY 60s SALVATORE SCARPITTA AND SERGE ALAIN NITEGEKA’S 2015 PAINTING.
A POIGNANT EXHIBITION ORGANIZED IN 2014 AT BOESKY UPTOWN LINKED CONTEMPORARY ARTIST DIANA Al-HADID’S WITH THAT OF 19th CENTURY MASTER MEDARDO ROSSI AND THEIR SHARED AESTHETIC SENSIBILITY AND SCULPTURAL CONCERNS.
.KRISTEN, THANKS SO MUCH FOR OUR CONTINUED CONVERSATION. WHAT IS THE ARCH OF YOUR CAREER PATH THAT BROUGHT YOU TO MARIANNE BOESKY GALLERY?
Upon completing my master’s in 2002 I was hired at Gorney Bravin + Lee. They had an amazing program that included Martha Rosler, Jessica Stockholder, James Welling, Sarah Charlesworth, and Justine Kurland.
After the gallery closed in 2005 I spent a year working on the Upper East Side at C&M Arts which became L&M Arts in the year I was there. I really enjoyed working for Robert Mnuchin and Dominique Levy, but at that time they did not focus on representing artists and I missed being in Chelsea and being involved with living artists.
Sheri Pasquarella (my previous colleague at Gorney Bravin + Lee) and Pamela Auchincloss reached out to me and offered me a two-pronged position working at Sheri’s advisory service as well as for Pamela’s arts management company. Sheri’s service included collection management and Pamela focused on facilitating university-scale museum shows so it was a great combination of long and short-term project management. In 2007 I decided to go back to the standard gallery structure and was hired at Luhring Augustine. I was a director there until 2014 and during that time I was a sales person and an artist liaison to gallery artists such as Glenn Ligon, Ragnar Kjartannson, and Daido Moriyama. I was able to travel extensively visiting gallery artists, working at art fairs, and seeing museum exhibitions.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE OUTSTANDING HIGHLIGHTS YOU RECALL FROM YOUR PREVIOUS POSITIONS? DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE WERE PARTICULAR SKILL SETS THAT YOU ACQUIRED ALONG THE WAY IN DIFFERENT VENUES? IF SO, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THEM.
Gorney Bravin + Lee was a great start for me, the staff was small and so I was able to see a lot of what it takes to run a business. Being at the front desk gave me an opportunity to learn about the key figures in the art world and actually my first GB+L opening dinner I sat next to Doug Eklund (photography curator from the Met) so I was over the moon. C&M provided a great framework for understanding the secondary market and gave me access to so many formidable experts. My skill set there was so different, it was more research based and there was not the same immediate connection to the public. One of the memorable lessons I took from my time working for Robert Mnuchin and Dominique Levy is to keep your bosses informed of what you are doing and what you want. By the time I worked for them I had been going to Art Basel Miami Beach for a few years on my own and I intended to go again in December of 2006. The plan was to fly down immediately after work on Saturday and spend all day Sunday seeing as much art I could. When I mentioned to Dominique that I was going she told me she wished she had known earlier so she could have had me go down and try my hand working at the fair. Oddly enough, it had never crossed my mind to tell her and Robert about my interest in this part of the industry because it wasn’t part of my defined job responsibility. She was so receptive to my enthusiasm and it was a strong reminder to be in charge of my career path. I try to remember this when working with colleagues who are early in their career. It is so easy to forget what it is like when you are just trying to gain experience, extending an invitation or asking an opinion can be such a significant and appreciated gesture.
Working for Sheri and Pamela was a great fit, in hindsight because the combination involved the commercial and non-profit arenas. Through Sheri I met some great collectors, one of whom I am still close with almost ten years later. I learned how to trust my own eye and saw how to put together a focused collection. It was a challenge to work for two companies concurrently because it’s almost impossible to divide your time 50/50, but the work I did with Pamela is clearly a precursor to my current role as the point of contact for museums and other art institutions.
My time at Luhring Augustine was particularly fruitful. It was the beginning of a strong time in my career and I stayed at the gallery for a little over seven years. When I first started I was given two artists, and as time went on that list grew and changed. Roland Augustine and Lawrence Luhring were wonderful bosses and gave me the confidence and space to figure out my sales approach. I never felt pressure to compromise my standards to close a deal and that was very empowering. I was particularly aware of how rare that was because around this point I started my own relationships and connections with collectors, curators, and my peers at other galleries and it was clear that others were working off a completely different model.
IN THE NEXT LRFA BLOG, KRISTEN WILL INFORM US OF THE HISTORY AND CURRENT ACTIVITIES ATMARIANNE BOESKY. AS YOU CAN SEE, SHE HAS GIVEN A GREAT DEAL OF THOUGHT TO VARIOUS APPROACHES TO GALLERY MANAGEMENT AND TO THE SPECIFIC TALENTS THAT BEST SERVE A GALLERY AND THE ARTISTS IT REPRESENTS.
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