A Professional Portrait by Hannah Conroy

Regional Director

Artist Pension Trust

Published: 2nd July 2017

What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

When I was a child my mums partner painted replica impressionist paintings and it was strange how young I was when I realised how Seurat and Manet created space and form through colour and intricate mark-making. Since an early age I was committed to becoming an artist and when I secure a place at University studying Fine Art I realised that there are many different career paths within the creative industries beyond being a painter. Over the past 15+ years I have worked across many roles, developing relationships with artists and institutions. 

Can you tell us a little about your role?

As a Regional Director for the Artist Pension Trust (APT), I manage relationships with artists in the UK, Netherlands, Austria, Israel and Palestine. The role requires me to have studio visits with artist, to select works and develop relationships with artists and their galleries, with the aim of providing longterm financial security for artists. In addition to this I work to present exhibitions and events to promote artworks in the APT collection to support sales of artworks.

What does your average day entail?

It depends on the day as I have to be quite flexible in relation to the role. Some days I will be on studio visits traveling to artists studios, or meeting them in their exhibitions to discuss their practice. Then other days are more administrative, with endless correspondence to artists. We are a global company with Trusts in New York, LA, Berlin, Beijing, therefore a lot of my meetings are online. I have a strong relationships with our logistics and facilities teams, coordinating loans and collections of artworks. 

How did you get your job?

After studying my MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art, I continued to work as freelance curator, curating exhibitions for Austrian Cultural Forum London, Pump House Gallery and other spaces. During this time I also worked for APT as an associate curator, recommending artists from Austria and the UK for the Global Trust. Three years later I applied for the role as Regional Director at APT because I wanted to work with artists over a sustained period of time and fell in love with the financial model.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part is talking so many artists across global. I had 113 studio visits last year and look forward to meeting our other artists when I travel to different countries. The breadth of artistic practices is astounding and I couldn't have imagined engaging with this many interesting practices if I wasn't in this role.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Remembering all my artist names and keeping on top of all their individual activities. It is my role to be the first point of contact for anyone needing information about an artist, whether that be sales, marketing or a general information request. Needless to say, I have extensive excel documents to keep as much information as possible at my fingertips.

 What has been the highlight of your career?

A turning point for me was working as a curatorial assistant for a major international Biennial. Working with the critical context of a Biennial gave me the inspiration to go back into education to study curating. I realised how important it is to be socially and politically engaged in exhibition making, and working with established artists and curators gave me the experience and confidence to see myself on this career path.

What is your favourite Artwork?

I couldn't possibly say one specific artwork is my favourite, but I could reflect on a body of work which influenced my research into contemporary artistic practices which incorporate fabric and textiles.  Robert Rauschenberg's 'Jammer' series featured in a retrospective at Tate Modern. Rauschenberg had been traveling through India and was inspired by the delicately saturate fabrics he saw around him. He created wall mounted assemblages of these found fabrics, which looked like abstracted sails. The whole series referenced the colonial trade in textiles and was a stark textural contrast to some of his more well know works. It was a pleasure to see these in the flesh after only seeing them in text books.

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

I look forward to meeting all artists as each has a unique concept or story to share. But perhaps Frida Kahlo - I think she would be a good person to discuss current feminist concerns with over a bottle of Sherry.

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

Be polite and generous. It is amazing how burnt bridges can come back to haunt you. I have seen artists from all stages in their careers, and the successful ones understand that nothing is as constant as change. It is amazing how that intern you worked with ends up being an editor of a rather important magazine (true story). A lot of opportunities come from personal recommendations, so be good at what you do, help people and be positive. 

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

I can't imagine not being in the arts, it is a part of my job, my hobbies and most of my weekends as well. As a fantasy I thought I would make a good sommelier, but in essence it is the same job that I have now, except instead of artists I would have knowledge of hundreds of grape varieties and instead of traveling to biennials I would be visiting vineyards. Not such a bad thought really.