Gallery life: Elisa Contemporary Art

Lisa Cooper, of Elisa Contemporary Art, tells us all about the life of her gallery: how it all began, where its focus lies, and what she loves about her work. Elisa Contemporary Art will be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair New York next month – catch her there if you happen to be in the city!

Elisa Contemporary Art Gallery

Tell us the story behind the gallery, how did you start?
It started in 2006 with the death of my father, a health scare and management changes at my company. I realized I needed to do something different…and something that I loved. On a vacation during that time in Hawaii, my husband came up with the idea of starting an art gallery and it lit a spark in me. As the daughter of an artist, I grew up with art in my home and visited museums often, so I knew how art can positively impact our lives.

After a year of exploration and research, I left my corporate career of over 15 years at New York advertising and integrated marketing agencies and six years managing Interactive and Relationship Marketing Departments at Mercedes-Benz, to launch Elisa Contemporary Art in November 2007.

What is the focus of your gallery?
My gallery is focused on the healing and transformational power of art. I will only represent artists whose work makes me feel something – whether it’s joy, sorrow, pain or wonder – it has to make me feel. And I donate a portion of every gallery sale to charities helping under-served communities heal through art. I currently support Free Arts NYC, Arts to Grow and Art Therapy Outreach Center.

What sparked your passion for art?
While I grew up around art, I think my passion peaked when my husband and I started our own art collection. We decided to buy a new piece of art every year for our anniversary…and it all started at an art fair! We each selected pieces that we liked and we needed to agree on one final piece that we both loved. Our house became filled with art that we loved, and continue to love today.

Pivotal moment for your gallery?
I am extremely lucky and blessed to have a number of moments that have been pivotal for the gallery and myself as an art dealer. They include being accepted to my first art fair — The Affordable Art Fair in NYC in 2008; being asked to join the Art & Architecture Review Committee at Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan; being selected as the Bronx Gallery for Curate NYC 2013; and being a co-founder of the New York Chapter for the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD), a London based group. I think anytime we can be part of something that is bigger than ourselves and helps others, it is a key moment.

Inside Elisa Contemporary Art Gallery

What does a typical day involve?
There is no typical day really, they are all wonderfully unpredictable! Most days do involve however, following up with clients and prospects who are interested in artwork that they have seen in the gallery, at one of our curated exhibits, online on our website, or on a third party site like Artsy or Amazon Art. Other days might involve driving cargo vans to clients homes with a selection of artwork they want to try on their walls, or installing a new show.

How do you find new artists?
Strangely enough, that is one of the easier parts of my job! As a gallery owner and participant of art fairs, I receive hundreds of portfolios from artists around the world. I am also always attending gallery shows, art fairs, studio visits and scouring the web to find artists, or sometimes just a piece of art I love, for a client or project.

Favorite part of your job?
Every time a client falls in love with a piece of artwork I have presented to them. I love seeing the look of joy and passion on their faces.

Best thing about doing an art fair?
I love being able to share our artwork with new people, as well as seeing our current clients. Sharing the work, and the creative vision and process behind the piece, is always such a thrill.

Favorite artwork in your home?
For one of my birthday’s (before I was in the art business), I bought myself an Alex Katz limited edition Aquatint. I remembered being at the Whitney Museum in the mid 80′s with a friend and having someone say “those girls look like they belong in a painting.” I thought it was such a huge compliment and he is forever one of my favorite artists.

Gallery life: AO Vertical Art Space

At our recent Hong Kong fair we spoke to Sarah Greene of AO Vertical Art Space to find out more about the gallery and what she loves about taking part in art fairs.

AO Vertical Art Space

What does a typical day involve?
It’s hard to define a typical day, every day is quite different and it depends on what’s coming up. In the morning I tend to reply to emails, the afternoons are reserved for meeting clients and speaking to new customers, whilst in the early evening, when it becomes dark and quiet, I tend to focus on matters that need my concentration like writing a press release, accounting, working out ideas…

Pivotal moment for your gallery?
The first exhibition I organized for AO Vertical Art Space – a major solo show with Ho Fan. It was the first important photography exhibition I staged and it struck a chord in Hong Kong. His beautiful imagery of Hong Kong in a bygone era attracted well over 1,000 visitors.

And on a personal level, the exhibition opened up a fascinating world of wonderful imagery and story telling to me and I totally fell in love with the medium of photography. I’m slowly working my way through every photography book I can find and this summer I am doing a course in photography at Sotheby’s in London. So you could say this exhibition changed my life!

Favourite part of your job?
I love to unleash my creativity when putting shows together – thinking about how best to bring the story forward and hang the artwork in an exciting way for the audience. I tend to organize exhibitions a year in advance and then spend months thinking about how to present them.

How do you find new artists?
It’s very personal and each case is unique, it can happen in many different ways. I discovered Anton Kusters one morning listening to an interview he was giving on the radio, I got out of bed and sent him an email straight away. Ho Fan’s work I encountered at an art fair in the US and I chased him and his agents for over a year. KC Kwan just walked into the bookshop one day and started telling me his story…the next day we started working on his book ‘Homebound’!

Hardest part of your job?
Administration! I don’t like spreadsheets but it’s part of the job…

Best thing about doing an art fair?
It’s a rollercoaster and gets the adrenaline going. I’m totally exhausted after a fair, but I love the madness and buzz a fair creates. You get to meet so many new people!

Most memorable moment of your career?
Every time I feel my efforts are being rewarded for all the hard work of promoting an artist – so this could be a sale, a nice review, or even just people coming far and wide to see an exhibition.

Artist you would most like to work with?
Oh there are many I’m looking forward to working with, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out who!

Gallery life: Villa del Arte

We chatted with lovely ladies Michelle Frederick and Veronica Iacobelli, who were on the Villa del Arte stand at Affordable Art Fair Battersea to find out what it’s like doing an art fair from their perspective.

Villa del Arte gallery in Barcelona

What does a typical day at an art fair involve?
We try to get to the fair early so we can make any little last minute changes to the stand and grab some coffee, lots of coffee! Then we’ll re-assess the stand; is there anything we want to change? How did visitors respond the day before? Depending on how the day goes, we might have to replenish the artwork, but our time is mainly taken up with chatting to people.

How does that differ from the day-to-day in the gallery?
It’s not too different actually! There’s a lot more artwork and a lot more people at a fair, so you have to be quicker on your toes to keep up! At the fair you have more artworks in a smaller space to organize.

Pivotal moment for you gallery?
The gallery was split over a number of different locations around Barcelona before it moved, eight or nine years ago, to the one it’s in now. I think it’s been a really good move for the gallery, it’s in a beautiful location, the space itself is lovely and it’s a vibrant area so we have the opportunity to meet lots of new people.

Best thing about doing an art fair?
Seeing different cultures, wherever you go the way people interact with the art is always different.

Hardest part of an art fair?
You always think after a fair, could the stand have been better? Did we hang it right? Did we bring the right artists? Did we put the right artists next to each other? You do rack your brains wondering if there was something you should have done differently.

How do you find new artists?
We have just done an open call for the gallery, which means we put out calls on different websites asking people to submit work. The gallery owners go to a lot of open studios and art fairs to find artists they like, and sometimes our artists will recommend other artists they know.

Favourite part of your job?
It’s amazing just being surrounded by the art, it’s such a privilege.

Gallery life: Modernbook gallery

Bryan Yedinak and Mark Pinsukanjana, directors of Modernbook Gallery in San Francisco, tell us a little bit about their daily lives as gallerists and what they love most about their work.

Modernbook Gallery's stand at Affordable Art Fair New York Spring 2014

What does a typical day involve?
Bryan Yedinak: Checking email, seeing who wants to buy something!

Mark Pinsukanjana: We do so many fairs, we do eight fairs a year, so we’re constantly getting calls about things people saw in LA, New York, London so dealing with that tends to make up typical day. We also publish books, our artist’s portfolios, so there’s usually plenty to organize for that too.

Pivotal moment for your gallery?
MP: In 2002 one of the artists we represent said to us that we should do an art fair and we thought yeah, that could be fun, so we did. We hadn’t done an art fair before and they were just getting going in the US then. So we did one, and then we did two, then three and it just grew and now we do eight fairs a year.

BY: It really was pivotal because it’s a big part of our business now, it changed the way we worked.

Best thing about doing an art fair?
BY: Interacting with people. You can do so many things online now, you can buy art online, but the face-time is good: they can see the piece, talk about it.

MP: For me, the best thing about doing an art fair is when we sell to the first time buyer. They just get so excited, you can see it in their eyes and they are just so happy. It’s so nice to meet the brand new collectors.

BY: Yes exactly. We were there once, it wasn’t so long ago that we were the first time buyers so now we love it when someone’s like “I just can’t stop thinking about that picture.” We often tell people, especially the first timers, if they’re thinking about a purchase to actually walk away and have a think, so when they do come back you know that it’s really in their head. And nine times out of ten they come back for another piece, because they had a good experience and we were nice. It’s great building that relationship too.

How do you find new artists?
BY: That’s a good question! Typically we get lots of submissions, and we maybe take on one from every 100. It’s a shame, but we just can’t take more, once you start you’re committed to the artists you’ve got. We have this one young artist, who’s Russian, and we saw her work at a show in San Francisco and called her up straight away we loved her work so much.

MP: Yes, actually, it was a show at a university which we found out about in a newspaper, so sometimes it can be entirely by chance.

BY: That’s the thing, we know what we like and we know our clientele so well that when we do see something it’s like right, let’s do this.

Favourite artist?
MP: I collect something a little bit quirky, I collect monkeys. So I can’t say I have a favourite artist, I’m more image driven. For me art is not about who it’s by, it’s about grabbing you, what the image says to you.

BY: He has a really good collection of monkeys by the way! I love photography, and of course that’s what we sell so that’s not surprising, but I really like Ryan McGinley, Uta Barth and Matthew Brandt.

Favourite part of your job?
BY: Mine is a two part answer, I like working with artists, I like choosing the pieces we are going to show and visiting their studios. Secondly, I like working with the people who take the art home. So the fairs bridge all that, we bring the artists we like, that we think will sell and then connect with the clients here.

MP: Yep same for me! I love building relationships with clients and see them come back year after year. It’s great when they come back to see us and say they’re still so in love with the piece they bought two years ago!

Gallery life: Will’s Art Warehouse

At the recent Battersea fair we caught up with Juliet Holton, who works at Will’s Art Warehouse, to find out what it’s really like working in a gallery.

Juliet Holton, who works in Will's Art Warehouse, admiring artwork on their stand at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea

What does a typical day involve?
I work in the gallery at the weekends, so the first thing I do is to make sure everything’s looking ok, everything has labels, that sort of thing. Then I’ll check emails and at the weekend, although there’s always plenty admin to do, the priority is really the customers – telling them about the artists and their work and sending emails to interested people. You never have just the one thing to do, it’s always a mixture of different things.

Pivotal moment for your gallery?
For me, it was when we did Affordable Art Fair New York two years ago. It was a really, really good fair and by the end we had pretty much sold everything. We actually had blank walls and no stock left, it was amazing. Such a buzz!

Best thing about doing an art fair?
I love it when you meet really enthusiastic people who are just so happy and excited about what they’re buying. Even if it’s just a small print, or someone buying their first artwork, that’s what I like the most.

How do you find new artists?
Pixie, the curator, generally chooses our new artists, but I’ve recently started helping and I’ve just found a new artist called Hester Cox who is an illustrator. I found her online, which is usually where I’ll start, then go and see their exhibitions to check their work will fit with the gallery, and after that I’ll show everything to Pixie who’ll say ‘yes, no’ or ‘maybe.’

Favourite part of your job?
My favourite thing is doing the art fairs abroad. The whole experience is really fun and you get to see lots of different work and meet new people.

Hardest part of your job?
Just after a fair is always really busy. There’s lots of clients you’d like to speak to, databases to update and shipping to organize. Staying on top of it all can be quite tricky sometimes.

Favourite artist?
I like Dan Parry Jones, his work is kind of street art, mixed-media, very tactile and colourful, which is what I’m drawn too. It’s similar to my own work, so probably why I like it!

Art in your city: Hamburg

Our lovely Hamburg team, Oliver and Judith, give us their top spots for exploring Hamburg’s art scene in this last post of the series.

Falckenberg Collection
The Falckenberg Collection is one of the most important collections in Germany and is a must see if you’re visiting the city. Inspiring and huge in equal measure, about 2,000 works of contemporary art make up the collection and it focuses on German and American art of the last 30 years. From the mid-1970s, an art scene evolved in Hamburg and Berlin that gained in importance as prominent artists like Sigmar Polke and Dieter Roth lived and worked in Hamburg. A subversive form of essentially Neo-Dadaist art emerged that challenged the ruling system, relying in the process on irony, satire, acerbic scorn and even cynicism. So there is certainly a lot to look forward to!

The Gängeviertel
In 2009 a group of 200 people active in the arts saved a run-down historic quarter in the centre of Hamburg from demolition, and it has since become a very lively and important center for subculture in Hamburg. At the you Gängeviertel you can wander into different and subversive art galleries, see street and urban art exhibitions, and enjoy a variety of outdoor sculptures, installations, performances, concerts, and open discussions. Even at night it is worthing heading to the Gängeviertel for a drink in one of the charming bars there.

Hamburger Kunsthalle
You can’t visit Hamburg without venturing in to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg’s largest and most important art museum. Its superb permanent collection takes you through seven centuries of art history, from the medieval altars of Master Bertram through to the stars of the contemporary art scene such as Gerhard Richter and Neo Rauch.

The Hamburger Kunsthalle consists of three striking buildings: the brick building from 1869 with its ornamental facade, the neoclassical extension building from 1919 made of light-coloured shell limestone, and the white cube of the Galerie der Gegenwart designed by architect Oswald Mathias Ungers. From the bistro in Galerie der Gegenwart you can enjoy one of the finest views of the city and watch the ships around the famous inner-city lake Alster.

Also worth visiting is the Westwerk, an old building in the centre of the city where there is always lots going on. The program is delightfully varied and includes gallery exhibitions, installations, performances, a music club and artist readings. Near the harbour, it’s in a beautiful spot and is an inspiring place to see.

Art in your city: Maastricht

Our Dutch team have again put together an excellent list of arty suggestions for you, this time in Maastricht. Affordable Art Fair will be launching a new fair in Maastricht in April, so below you will find some great ideas for exploring the city’s art scene before we arrive!

Marres, House for Contemporary Culture
Marres, House for Contemporary Culture was founded in Maastricht in 1998 and puts on a wonderfully varied program to explore the visual arts, including exhibitions, lectures, research, performances and publications. As well as the house, there is also Marres Books which has a specialized collection of photography, landscapes and visual arts, while the Marres Kitchen is a lovely place for a coffee and lunch.

Their current exhibition is the Winter Anti-Depression Show, for which Marres invited a team of designers and artists to bring some summer into winter’s dark months by creating a house that immerses visitors in a variety of summery experiences. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you are looking to banish some of those winter blues!

The Bonnefantenmuseum is a museum for old, modern and contemporary art and has a varying exhibition program. The building, designed by Italian architect Aldo Rossi, is beautiful in itself and the tower gives some fantastic views of the river Maas. And don’t forget to visit the Museum Shop and the Museumcafé: Ipanema, for a lovely coffee too.

Museum aan het Vrijthof
A unique museum in a unique square with a unique story. A story about Maastricht. A story about creativity and entrepreneurship – two values that have shaped the city into the grande dame she is today.

After an extensive renovation, the museum’s surface area has now tripled and space was created for the new Shop and Café. The renovation combined two listed monuments and has led to a spectacular synergy between medieval and contemporary architecture.

Their current focus, ‘500 Years Made in Maastricht,’ takes you back through the past five centuries of arts and crafts that have flourished in this city of artisans. The exhibition explores the roots of Maastricht’s cultural identity and connections between the city’s artistic past and present.

Les Tables
As their tagline suggestions, Les Tables will help you “eat where the locals meet” and experience the city as the locals know it. Through Les Tables you can discover 22 of the best places to eat, from casual dining to chic eateries, they will guide you to exactly what you’re in the mood for.

Art in your city: Amsterdam

This week our wonderful Dutch team, Sebastiaan, Lotte and Stefanie, have put together a selection of their favorite art destinations to help you explore the culture in the capital of The Netherlands.

This is a great thing to do if you’re brand new to the city. After you’ve arrived, head to Citinerary to meet a local for a chat about life in the city over a coffee. We’ll share our knowledge of the city, give you valuable insights and tell you all about the places we like!

It will help you experience Amsterdam as a local citizen, get to know your way around and find out what’s happening while you’re here. The people you meet at Citinerary won’t plan your weekend, instead they’ll give you suggestions and options to choose from.

The newly re-opened Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam’s Museumplein is huge and very impressive. It’s as big as the Hermitage in St Petersburg, or the Louvre in Paris, so you do need to give yourself a few hours to see it properly.

We could spend hours and hours in there, it’s such a colossal masterpiece! Room after room full of magnificent paintings and other arts. Everything in there was spot on and all the facilities are great too. If you’re interested in art history, and especially in the Dutch Masters, then you won’t be disappointed.

Eye Film Institute
The new Eye is really worth visiting if you’re into films. There are always interesting exhibits, screenings of ‘classic’ and modern films, and the amazing cybershark-type building dominates the northern waterfront and really is worth the free ferry ride in itself.

On the banks of the IJ river, after a 15 minute ferry ride you can discover another new exciting cultural spot. The NDSM wharf is a raw industrial area, a market place for vintage hunters, a home for students, and a shelter for creatives.

If you love street art this is the place to find the work of calligraffiti artist Niels ‘Shoe‘ Meulman and other renowned names like Bustart, Karski, KBTR, and Israeli artist Broken Fingaz. The artwork of deceased Amsterdam graffiti ‘king’ Artic is still there, as are newer tributes to his work. Enjoy!

It’s also a great place to find second hand items, vintage clothes, and retro design, especially at the IJ-hallen flee market. Once you’ve taken in the art and hunted round the market, grap a bite to eat at Noorderlicht (for the best views!) or at the new city beach PLLEK.

Tolhuistuin – Amsterdam Noord
De Tolhuistuin is one of those hidden gems you shouldn’t miss when visiting Amsterdam. It aims to be a free space for arts and culture, and they host a wide program of music, theatre, dance, visual arts, media and literature. Tolhuistuin is located on the former science campus of Shell at the IJ river bank, opposite the central station.

Breakfast has long been thought of as the most important meal of the day, and indeed it is the moment we all start our day with. A typical Dutch breakfast consists of a few slices of bread (Boterham) topped with cheese (Kaas), chocolate sprinkles (Hagelslag) and cold slices of meat, accompanied by a mug of milk, orange juice, tea or coffee.

To sample a real Dutch breakfast, you can do no better than Bakkerswinkel for a delicious start to your day!

Art in your city: Brussels

Our fabulous Brussels team, Julie, Julie and Geraldine have compiled a few of their favorite art destinations and must-visit areas of the city. So whether you’re a local resident or planning a city-break, make sure you’ve got these suggestions on your list:

Magritte Museum
The Magritte Museum displays works of the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, and is located in the heart of Brussels at the Place Royale. Housing more than 200 of his works there is plenty to see: from oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects, to his advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films – so it’s well worth a visit!

WIELS Museum
Wiels is an international laboratory for the creation and diffusion of contemporary art. As well as holding different large-scale exhibitions throughout the year, they also host an artist-in-residence programme and a wide education program through workshops, seminars and various projects. The current exhibition is Walter Swennen, ‘So Far So Good,’ which focuses on the paintings of the Belgian artist from the early 1980s up to now. It finishes at the end of the month, so go and see it while you still can.

And while you’re at the WIELS Museum, you should also wander round the nearby Community Garden. With a vegetable garden, rest area, and petanque field, it makes for a very pleasant stroll.

BOZAR, the center of culture in Brussels, not only hosts exhibitions, but also has a movie theatre and concert hall. As such, creativity, quality and artistic diversity have been at the heart of the center’s mission since its foundation.

Upcoming events worth visiting include Art Truc Troc, 7 – 9 February, where over 300 artists invite you to come and barter for their work. You can trade any object, service, material, trip, or other offering for a work of art so it promises to be a lot of fun!

We’re also looking forward to Michaël Borremans exhibition, ‘As sweet as it gets.’ The Belgian painter made his international breakthrough in the late 1990s and this show features a hundred of his works from the past 14 years, giving you a great overview of his career. The exhibition runs from Saturday 22 February – Sunday 3 March.

The Saint-Gery district is the artists area of Brussels and a wonderful part to look round. With its market, exhibitions and famous bars, like the Halles Saint-Gery, this area is a must in the center!

Café Belga
Once you’ve had your fill of art, then Cafe Belga is one of our favorite places to enjoy a drink. One of the hippest bars in Brussels, it is in the heart of Place Flagey – an area known for its late 19th century architecture.

Art in your city: Toronto

It’s the new year and we’ve got lots of new, exciting plans in the pipeline! One of which is the launch of a sister fair in Toronto in May. So as an introduction to the city, Fair Director Nicole Milkovich has put together her top arty destinations for us.

Discover a few of her favorite haunts for exploring Toronto’s art culture, as well as upcoming dates for openings that are not to be missed!

First Thursday’s, Art Gallery of Ontario
“We’re bringing it all together – art, artists, live music, food, drinks and you – for one fun-filled Thursday each month. Grab a drink, roam the galleries and make art. All in one night.”

The next event is February 6, and personally, I can’t wait to see the work of artist Nathalie Quagliotto who I had the chance to meet a few weeks ago.

Bau-xi Photo Gallery
Bau-xi Photo is focused on showcasing fine art photography by artists at all levels of their careers and gallery Director Tien Huang has a great eye for talent. Bau-xi has three galleries in Canada and has been on the scene for almost 50 years. We love any chance we get to speak with Tien as he is a generous and very knowledgeable art dude!

Looking forward to the next exhibition at Bau-Xi Photo showcasing the work of Chris Shepherd taking place from January 11-25.

Opening reception: Saturday January 11, 2-4pm.

General Hardware Contemporary
Located in Parkdale, this is one of the most beautiful gallery spaces in the city. As you may have guessed from the name it was a former hardware store and the renovation is amazing. The gallery represents artists from all disciplines both local and international and at various stages in their careers. When selecting artists, the most important thing for Director Niki Dracos is that she has to love the art!

And after a visit to General Hardware Contemporary you should definitely stop in at one of my favorite taco joints Grand Electric for some tacos, drinks and general good times!

The next exhibition is showcasing the work of Alex Bierk: Pitfalls and Withdrawls and runs from January 16 – February 15, 2014.

Opening reception: Thursday, January 16, 6-9pm.

Alison Milne Gallery
There is a great show coming up at the Alison Milne Gallery featuring unique approaches to works on paper by Lilian Crum, Eric Wang and Han Zhang. Located on Walnut Street just south of Queen Street West, Alison has designed this space with a dual purpose, art gallery in the front and interior design studio in the back, creating a perfect balance between her love of both art and design.

Exhibition titled BLANK opens January 25, 3-6pm.

#Hashtag Gallery
Johnny and Graeme from #Hashtag Gallery are a pair of young art enthusiasts who have gathered a roster of talented young artists and they put on a great party. Follow their Twitter feed to keep up to date on all of their happenings. As you can imagine by the gallery name, they are pretty great at keeping people informed!

#Hashtag Gallery is currently presenting Toronto artist BEN SELLICK: “Come Together (paper & plastic)”

Show runs January 4-19.
Reception with artist: January 9, 7-11:30pm