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A Professional Portrait by Charlotte Maxwell

Deputy Director

Messums Art Gallery

Published: 31st July 2017

What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

I have been passionate about art from a young age. Despite my lack of skills as an artist myself, I adored looking at art, visiting galleries and reading about it. I didn’t know that History of Art existed until I went to a trial day at my school and I immediately fell in love with it. I had found a subject that encompassed so many disciplines that I was interested in – History, Politics, English, Sociology, Psychology and Art – the dream! I was lucky to have an incredibly inspiring teacher who enlightened me to the Art industry and I continued from there.

Can you tell us a little about your role?

I am the Deputy Director of Messum’s Fine Art Gallery. Working alongside the Chairman, I run the Cork Street Gallery managing a team of six, handling all property, incoming consignments, events and HR matters and hold weekly meetings to ensure the team is well briefed in all areas regarding the forthcoming exhibitions. I manage the contemporary artists we represent, drawing up their contracts, organising their exhibition programmes and managing their exhibition budgets. In addition, I look after our Top 100 clients and the Friends of Messum’s, ensuring their experience at any of the locations is exceptional and that they are kept up to date with the forthcoming programme.

What does your average day entail?

As with many jobs in the art world, my day varies depending whether we are preparing for, half way through or taking down an exhibition. We exhibit in many art fairs, so some days I will work offsite manning our stand. I also spend a lot of time visiting artists’ studios and looking at their work prior to an exhibition, so it is rare that I will spend a full week at the gallery. When I am there, I will be talking to clients, managing the artists, preparing contracts and getting ready for the next exhibition.

How did you get your job?

Prior to Messum’s I worked at Christies Auction House in the Impressionist department. I completed a research internship there after University and was lucky that a job on the ‘Works on Paper’ sale became available as my internship ended. I worked as the Administrator for that sale for two years before moving to the ‘Evening and Surreal Sale’. After two years on this sale, I saw the opportunity at Messum’s. I thought it would be interesting to experience working in the gallery sector and experience the industry from a different angle.

What is the best part of your job?

I never have Sunday blues! Both at Messum’s at Christie’s, I have never had a moment that I did not want to go into work. My day is made up of looking at and working with art and artists which is my passion. Many of my colleague have also become lifelong friends, I think because it is hard to get into the arts and you must be truly passionate about it to persevere, many of the people in the industry are very like-minded. It is the best feeling to go into work every day with some of your closest friends.

What is the hardest part of your job?

When an exhibition doesn’t sell well. It is a terrible feeling as you build up such close relationships with the artists and become personally invested. Sometimes there is no identifiable reason why an exhibition didn’t succeed in the way you thought it would and it is difficult to have those conversations with the artists.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Whilst working at Christie’s, a number of record breaking sales took place including Picasso’s The Women of Algiers (Version ‘O’) which sold for $179.3 million in the New York sale and the Three Studies of Lucian Freud By Francis Bacon whilst sold for £89.3 million. I saw both these works in person and then saw the prices they realized. It was wonderful to see works of this caliber so regularly at Christie’s, I would always look around the viewing rooms to see what was on display!

What is your favourite Artwork?

Anything by Miro! I adore his works and was lucky enough to work with them during my time working on the Surreal sale at Christies. I have always been fascinated by the Surrealists as I find psychology incredibly interesting and Surrealism combines the two. I have a poster of his ‘Tryptich Blue II’ at home, I think that is the closest I will ever get!

Which artist would you have liked or would like to meet?

Francis Bacon. I did a module on Bacon whilst at University and have been a huge admirer ever since. I think he is such an enigma and his works are so captivating. I could stand in front of his ‘Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X’ for hours. I think he would be such an interesting person to talk to, not to mention fun!

What advice would you give to people trying to enter the art industry?

Perseverance is key. If you are truly passionate about a career in the arts, you will get there. It may take a while to find the right job for you but every experience can be valuable, even if you work out that that role isn’t for you. Try and gain as much experience as possible - go to events, art fairs and private views, talk to everyone and anyone. And fundamentally, use Easel! This is a resource to help anyone looking to pursue a career in the arts. Read all there is on the website and use our mentoring scheme – we are here to help you get a job in the arts and spend a lifetime doing what you love.

If you weren’t in the art industry, what would you be doing?

I have always loved flowers, arranging them, discovering new varieties and having fresh flowers in my flat. Although I am a terrible morning person, I always liked the idea of being a florist.