Meredith Harper: the art of business in the arts
IN 2011, THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, WORKING WITH DATA FROM THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, ANALYZED THE FINANCIAL FUTURE OF AMERICA’S “CREATIVE TYPES”. MUCH TO EVERYONE’S SURPRISE, THESE STUDIES ANTICIPATED THAT JOB GROWTH IN THE ARTS WOULD EXCEED JOB GROWTH IN GENERAL.
HARRY BRADFORD, OF HUFFPOST BUSINESS, REPORTED:
With the country in the middle of a jobs crisis, finding any form of employment is tough, let alone jobs in the arts…Over the next seven years, job growth in the arts will exceed job growth as a whole, the report states. In fact, according to the report, artistic careers for painters, architects and photographers are expected to increase by 11 percent by 2018, compared to the projected 10 percent total increase in the American labor force.
Certain arts industries are expected to see especially significant jobs growth. Jobs associated with museums, such as curators, archivists and technicians, are expected to rise 20 percent, or “much faster than average employment growth.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the public’s continued interest in arts, sciences, and history, when coupled with growing amounts of content and material to manage, will create demand for such jobs.
MEREDITH HARPER, A NEW YORK BASED CURATOR, ADVISOR AND DEALER IN MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART, HAS EARNED HER STERLING REPUTATION, WORKING IN A VARIETY OF AREAS OF EXPERTISE IN ART WORLD, RANGING FROM A SPECIALIST AT A LEADING AUCTION HOUSE TO DIRECTORSHIPS AT SEVERAL OF NEW YORK’S MOST RESPECTED GALLERIES; FROM WORKING WITH MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART AS A PRIVATE DEALER AND REPRESENTING AN ARTIST’S ESTATE.
I AM SO PLEASED TO WELCOME MY GOOD FRIEND AND RESPECTED COLLEAGUE TO THE LRFA BLOG.
MEREDITH, THANK YOU FOR CONTRIBUTING.
I KNOW THAT YOUR FATHER IS AN ARTIST WHO HAS GAINED INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION IN HIS FIELD. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF HIS WORK AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GROW UP WITH A FATHER WHO IS AN ARTIST?
My father, William Harper, makes one-of-a-kind wearable sculpture as jewelry, and is widely considered one of the most important contemporary enamelists in the world, an “heir”, he’s been described, to Faberge and Lalique. He’s not only extraordinarily talented but incredibly curious and generous with that curiosity. My parents shared their personal interests with my brother and I — they considered travel, including going to museums, galleries and studying architecture together, an important way to learn about the world. And we were always included, even as young children, at his openings and dinners. It was a very stimulating way to grow up.
DID YOU IDENTIFY WITH THE WORK THAT HE MADE WHILE YOU WERE GROWING UP AND HAS IT INFLUENCED YOUR AESTHETIC AND THE ARTISTS THAT RESONATE WITH YOU?
Absolutely. He is definitely a “maximalist” in his tastes in art, and also collects very raw African fetish sculpture as well as contemporary “craft” art — people like Peter Voulkos, Lenore Tawney, and Francoise Grossen, many of whom were also friends. So I grew up loving that, as well as artists like Cornell, Samaras, late Picasso, and the expressionist Germanic and Flemish artists from the middle ages onwards. But as I got older, I also grew to appreciate and fall in love with other, very different types of art — Minimalism, Conceptual art, some photography. I would say that probably the strongest thread that runs through the work that personally resonates with me is that it’s tough and intellectually rigorous on multiple levels. I just don’t have much time for art that reads like a one-liner.
DID YOU START, AS SO MANY DEALERS HAVE, BY WANTING TO BE AN ARTIST?
I definitely inherited some creative genes, and being around that much creativity as a child it’s hard not to want to be an artist … I was always doing very elaborate projects as a child. But funnily enough I also aways had a really strong interest in science and math, and I interned in a university science lab for a couple of years when I was in high school. I think that the biggest deterrent for me in not becoming an artist was seeing first hand that spark of creative genius that my father has, and realizing that I simply didn’t have that.
WHAT INITIAL STEPS DID YOU TAKE ONCE YOU DECIDED ON A PROFESSION IN THE ART WORLD?
After giving up on a career in science because I found lab-life to be too lonely, I wanted to become a writer. My first art history teacher encouraged me, after I’d written a term paper on Paul Klee, by telling me that he thought I had a particular knack for both understanding as well as explaining art. I loved art, so for the first time it occurred to me that this could be a path for me to take. I have two degrees in art history, from the University of Virginia and Case Western Reserve University, and I was a curatorial assistant at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Back then I thought I wanted to be a museum curator. It wasn’t until I started working for Richard Feigen that I realized there was another possibility — that you could do scholarly exhibitions and interact with important art in a gallery setting.
RICHARD L. FEIGEN & CO. IS A REMARKABLE FIRST STOP IN A CAREER IN THE ARTS. WHILE MOST DEALERS FOCUS ON ONE PERIOD OF ART, FEIGEN CONCENTRATES ON WORKS OF MANY PERIODS, RANGING FROM OLD MASTER TO CONTEMPORARY, UNITED BY A LEVEL OF TASTE AND CONNOISSEURSHIP. WHAT A WONDERFUL START!
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG, MEREDITH WILL SHARE HER FIRST EXPERIENCES IN THE GALLERY WORLD. SHE IS THOUGHTFUL AND INFORMED. WE WELCOME ANY AND ALLQUESTIONS AND COMMENTS YOU MIGHT HAVE.