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!
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.
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.