Sue Stoffel interview continued.
Carey: So what happened after that?
Stoffel: I went back to school. That was an important catalyst. I went back to Columbia and got my masters in arts administration. I figured that I have been doing that for so long that it was time to put the diploma behind it. So my mentor at Columbia, Joan Jeffri was the founder of Arts Administration program there, put me under her wing and kind of professionalized all this intuitive knowledge and experience that I had and with that I was able to go to work and establish my professional credentials in New York. And that was a major moment as well.
Carey: So let’s talk a little bit about your professional credentials, before that you didn’t have any degrees in Arts Administration or the Arts?
Stoffel: Not in Art Administration. I have a couple of degrees in arts history. I do have huge arts historical background but not in Arts Administration which is different because you’re working with funders, with granters, with foundations, government, sponsorships, boards, budgets, very different than just having an art history background.
Carey: Right and since then what’s been happening?
Stoffel: 2005 I started a contemporary photography collection for a law firm in New York. I was given a grant for a mandate to work with 6 floors of their New York offices putting up contemporary photography which was very rewarding. I loved every minute of it, it was a great acquisition committee of lawyers who understood the value of putting art in their conference rooms and in their hallways and in their public spaces.
And then 2008 hit and I watched my 2009 budget disappear. The whole world changed when Lehman Brothers fell. I partnered with a woman to start a new business and it’s still going on. I do collections management for collectors who would like to acquire contemporary art and I take care of other people’s collection as well.
Carey: And when you build collection, maybe we can talk a little bit how a collection is built.
Stoffel: The art market has changed so dramatically. I think you probably know that just from reading the papers this week. Auctions are selling…
Carey: Right, it hit the billion mark this week in just one art auction.
Stoffel: Yes, the billion mark is only one auction house alone. Collecting contemporary art is a very long process and I’ve worked with clients for maybe even a year before they even write their first check.
And so there’s a huge learning curve involved in understanding of what artists are doing, why they’re doing it and why contemporary art looks like it does today. And so it’s very hands-on and I love working with people who don’t know a lot about contemporary art because I watch their eyes brighten up and they kind of sort to get it after a while that it’s just not garbage or junk or mishmash or “my kids could do that.” The understanding that there is a process and a talent. Something I call the mind, heart, hand continuum, where you need to see the hand of the artist, and the heart of the artist in the final product and understand what his mind is thinking while he’s creating. And that takes time and dialogue and conversation and looking at a lot of art and going to galleries and museum shows and reading and following what’s going on in the world. And of course working with artists as well. I go to studio visits, I start to figure out what they’re doing and it’s very much a labor of love because I put into practice what I do for myself therefore I can speak to it in a way that appeals to people who are trying to start a collection.