Episode 60 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Building a Collection

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.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 59 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Contemporary Art

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: That’s very interesting. What you’re doing for the museums or what you offer to the museums in New York was to help educate people about collecting. It was something they weren’t doing. Is that correct?

Stoffel: It was a long term plan to develop patronage because that doesn’t exist. Where you have Rockefellers, and Carnegies, Vanderbilts, and Whitneys and even the 3 women behind MoMa who were building museums on their own. The U.S. is famous for not conforming and starting out on their own and doing something different, particularly by women which is an interesting fact as well.    

Carey: So that began your career in both collecting and in arts administration and fundraising. It sounds like it was all wrapped up in that to some degree.

Stoffel: Absolutely. I came back to New York in ’98, joined the board of Creative Time in 1999 and the Brooklyn Museum right in the middle of the Sensation exhibition, which was an interesting time of course to be a new trustee of a museum.

Carey: Right, that was the museum was really under fire then.

Stoffel: Under fire, yes and former mayor Giuliani never even came to see the show. He didn’t know what he was talking about.

Carey: What always seems to be ironic about that, is that it also created worldwide attention for those “controversial” works that many people may not have known otherwise. I think censorship is awful, and that kind of thing is awful but what’s incredible is how those acts of censorship make this work almost iconic and part of the public consciousness in the way that nothing else really does.

Stoffel: Contemporary art it is a repository for the art of our time, it is the  history of our time, it is a truer documentary process than written history. Art that’s made in its time reflects the society in which the artist lived and that’s something that sometimes gets lost in translation.

If you think back to Manet and the Execution of Maximilian, and Marcel Duchamp during World War I, it was absolutely retaliatory against what was the norm. Even the impressionists, they decided they were not going to paint what other people saw but they were going to paint what they saw. And that was a major milestone in the realization that contemporary art is a very vital contribution to history and I think that sometimes gets lost.

Carey: Absolutely. So now you’re back in New York, these are, we’re moving into the early 2000’s, you’ve been on the board or still are at Creative Time and at that point and I know the history of Creative Time so much because that’s when Anne Pasternak was beginning .

Stoffel: Correct, and she’s a force, she’s a major force. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with her and the other board in developing Creative Time into what it is today. I think she came on in 1994. I joined in 1998 and stayed for 10 years.

Carey: So part of your role there was also to organize fundraising and also exhibits?

Stoffel: On both ends. I worked with artists, I worked with Vik Muniz on the skywriting project he did over the skies in New York in 2000.

Carey: That was a beautiful project. I’ll never forget that project.

Stoffel: Yes, it was gorgeous. Of course that could never happen now, after 9/11 but we were busy on the phones trying to find a sky writer who would work for nothing and get that project financed and off the ground. It was so much fun. That’s the best part of being able to contribute to the contemporary fabric is to help projects get realized like that.

Carey: There was a number of things that changed pre and post 9/11 like all the giant shows in the base of the Brooklyn Bridge which was called the anchorage, the  shows were absolutely wonderful but I guess that’s impossible now.

Stoffel: Right, that’s correct.

 

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Episode 58 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel Interview

Carey: Today on our show we’re talking with Sue Stoffel. She’s a collector and an art administrator with 25 years of professional art experience in numerous aspects in the art world. Sue, thanks so much for being with us today.

Stoffel: An honor to be here, thank you.

Carey: When you were growing up were you influenced a lot by the arts? Were your parents involved in the art? If we can go back that far, how did you get involved and influenced by the art world?

Stoffel: Very much influenced through my childhood. I grew up in New York City. I’m fourth generation Manhattanite and my mother is an artist, both my grandmothers were artists. One aunt runs the oldest non-profit cooperative gallery in New York. And my other aunt on my fathers side was one of the founders of the African Art museum in Soho in the ‘80’s. And so my mother was taking me through SoHo in the 60’s, a greasy haired teenager looking at the works of Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg and Warhol, and so it all went in through osmosis.

But it really didn’t come out until I moved to Switzerland in 1980 and started collecting. I was getting married and I went to visit a wonderful old dealer, named Anne Rossler and I asked her what I should buy my future husband as a wedding present and she said there’s only one thing and that’s art. And so I bought my first piece which was a Christo and from there it’s 30 years later, maybe even more, and 350 works later.

Carey: Wow, 350 works that’s how many art works are in your own collection?

Stoffel: Yes, correct. I am a collector. We call ourselves junkie collectors because it’s what we do. We don’t do anything else. My husband used to call it “Susan bags” because he would rather me spend $2000 on a Prada bag than a work of art-  and I disagreed, and so we were collecting Swiss art when we were living there. Then I started to go to Art Basel in 1985 and that changed my perspective globally in terms of what was happening in the contemporary world. And that’s when our art collection started to expand.

Carey: And what was the first Christo that you bought?

Stoffel: It was the Wrapped Leonardo in Milano. It was a work on paper that he had attached a wrapped sculpture on and then there was the matching photograph that went with it. So this was from 1982.

Carey: I didn’t know that. Could you just describe that a little bit more.

Stoffel: Sure, I’m going to walk over and looking at it. Yeah, I don’t know exactly which Piazza in Milano it is, maybe it says on here. Yes, here it is, wrapped monumental Leonardo project for Piazza della Scala in Milano, it’s signed and it is a piece of a cotton wrapped sculpture with his iconic string stapled onto a photograph that he has penciled around of the Piazza della Scala.

There are some really old 1950’s, 1960’s cars parked in the background. So it’s a cool piece and you’ll see it as you come into my apartment. It’s the first piece you see and kind of opens the dialogue to everything else that’s hanging in the apartment now.

Carey: Wow, that is a cool piece. That’s amazing, sounds gorgeous and also of course now very, very valuable piece. Those are quite amazing things to have. That’s essentially an early preparatory drawing of his, isn’t it?

Stoffel: It’s more than a preparatory drawing. There is a depth, there is third a dimension. It is actually a sculpture on the wall.

Carey: So then let’s move forward from there. That was your beginning of kind of your foray into your collecting. You’re in Switzerland, what happened next? And I assume at this point you’re not involved in art administration?

Stoffel: Not yet but that kind of change in 1994, 1995 when we were collecting quite intensely.

I came back to New York for a trip and went to visit the marketing directors of the Whitney and MoMa and put together some best practices of how museums were approaching their contemporary collectors. And I took that to the Kunsthalle in Zurich and I said, “Listen I’ve got this idea, there are a lot of contemporary collectors now out there who don’t feel connected to the museum. I’d like to develop a program,” and they actually bought it and asked me to direct it. So I did that for 5 years before coming back to New York.

I was working with other collectors around Switzerland and organizing lectures and tours and getting into private collections and taking them to art fairs, to the opening of the Gugenheim, I developed kind of a network of very interested contemporary art collectors around Europe and I brought that back to New York with me.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 57 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Finding Art Collectors

How do artists meet and work with collectors? Can artists sell work directly from their studios? This chapter will discuss how collectors operate, how to approach them, and how to make sales from the studio.

Where are all the collectors? They are on the board of all the non-profit organizations around you from universities to museums, theatres, and art centers. They are in attendance at museum openings that are open to the public. Their names are listed on the brochures of museums under “donors and patrons.”

Usually there is a big list of patrons to any major local cultural establishment, and those are all potential collectors. Of course some of those names will no longer be living, but many of them will be, and new names have to be added all the time.

It’s easy to find those names with the internet and a search engine like Google. Get a list together of local collectors using the method I am saying, to find lists of donors and patrons to museums and art centers. Then research each one and see if they have their own foundation (many do) and take notes on what a search comes up with so you can get to know this potential collector better.

So that would be assembling a list of 20 or less people who you would like to meet and having researched them all, you are now familiar with them and if they have foundations and where they like to give money, etc. If that sounds like a lot of work, think of what just one relationship with a collector could yield.

The next step is according to your own style, but you must find a way to meet those people and befriend them with a conversation. It is that hard and that easy. These people on your list will be available to talk to at openings and arts events you are following, so you must find a way to say hello that is not too uncomfortable and that works.

It is clearly possible to meet these people if you do your research, and find the collectors and patrons you want to target. But if a public meeting sounds too daring for you, then you can also email them and introduce yourself online.

However, meeting in person easily trumps the technique of writing an email, because when you meet in person, there is either a rapport, a chemistry, that makes you comfortable or there is not. So I favor in-person meetings because even if it is an awkward first meeting, the email follow-up will be much more meaningful once a face to face meeting has occurred.

It’s all personal. We tend to be comfortable with people we have been around and trust for some reason. Because of that, I suggest trying to meet people at openings, because even if they are not on your list, the more friends you have in the art world, the better.

If you are determined to reach out by email first, then this is how to craft your letters.

Your approach to your letter should be personal, not a template of a letter requesting a view of a website. Ideally you have at least researched the person you are writing to, so make the first letter a form of a fan letter, since you will flatter the recipient by having a knowledge of who you are writing to. Anyone who receives a letter with sincere compliments in it is engaged. If the compliments are not sincere it will not work, so writing a letter from the heart is something you will need to practice and be truthful about. It is an art in itself and has a history that is filled with artists writing letters to collectors, charming them, and often asking for money. There are no strict rules to those letters, but politeness and charm tend to go very, very far.

Begin crafting letters that are like works of art in themselves. Send them by email and / or postal mail. If you do this regularly about things you are passionate about, you will get answers with similar passion and build strong relationships while doing so. These letters can be written to collectors as we have outlined above, but also a great letter to a newspaper can get published and a great letter to an artist or intellectual hero of yours often gets an answer. Try it, with all that you’ve got. This next interview is with Sue Stoffel who is a collector and talks about her expierence in the art world.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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