Featured on Aug 30, 2011
"Every day, do one thing that scares you."
Passionate about influencing the ways the art world embraces social media and technology, I joined VIP Art Fair, the world's first contemporary art fair to be held exclusively online, in July. I am former Director of Marketing and PR for Cowan's, a fine arts auction house in Cincinnati, which happened to be the first auction house to have a website (even before the major international houses). I have an Art History BA, and am working on my MBA.
- Title: Marketing Associate, VIP Art Fair
- Age: 27
- Location: Chelsea
- Contact: @EmilyEverhart
What lead to your decision to work on an MBA?
I held off going to graduate school because I was fortunate enough to get a specialist job at the auction house right after graduating with my BA. Even then I was on the fence and toyed around with pursuing an MA in Material Culture or History of Design.
Rather coincidentally, I read Randy Kennedy's article in the New York Times about the Center for Curatorial Leadership at about the same time that Wes Cowan tapped me to become his Director of Marketing and Public Relations. It occurred to me that my true passion lies in how an organization, be it a museum or a business, functions and grows. I decided that an MBA would be a perfect match because I could learn about the basics of business and leadership, and use that to pursue my interest in the arts, setting me apart from colleagues who were pursuing advanced degrees in Art History and the like. It's proven to be a great foundation.
Since I've continued to work full-time, my pursuit of the degree has been part-time at Xavier University in Cincinnati; with my recent move to NYC I'll be transferring schools.
You checked into Montague Wine & Spirits as part of your hurricane prep. Drink of choice for the storm? How about at the bar?
Hahah- there's nothing like a nice Malbec on a rainy day, so that's what I picked up at Montague Wine and Spirits. If I'm in the mood for a cocktail, it's almost always a dirty martini or a vodka gimlet.
What do you consider to be the most challenging part about holding an art fair online?
I think that understanding the subtleties of why people—collectors, dealers, and art enthusiasts—attend an art fair, then translating that into an online experience, has been a major challenge. In the end, it's about more than facilitating a transaction between a dealer and a collector, although that's certainly a very important component of the fair. Art fairs are about providing a critical mass of compelling art, connecting people, building a community, and sparking conversations.
In some ways, the fact that VIP Art Fair is exclusively online is a boon to achieving these things. Geography, time, and money aren't barriers to attending, so the audience can be larger and stronger. Plus it's a time-driven, live event. It's just a matter of harnessing the tools that already exist for communicating and building community—Twitter and Facebook, for example—and using them to our advantage to supplement the features that we've built within the site. We're really focusing on building this for VIP2.0.
On another note, one thing that really impressed me before joining the team was the way the they overcame the challenge of representing the art in a compelling way. The booths are extremely intuitive; they represent the scale of each work in relationship to the human figure and to each other without being cheesy or distracting. The works really shine, and ultimately, that's what's most important!
Any thoughts on the new crop of startups that work in the art space? Any of them a particular favorite of yours?
Coming from the auction side of the art world, where the internet has been a major tool for growth over the past decade, I find it really interesting that it has taken this long for galleries and dealers to establish the same online presence. That's what excited me about VIP Art Fair—they were the first to actually do something about it. The other startups that have surfaced this year, particularly those in the very high-end contemporary art space that we occupy, still have to prove that they have viable business models. In the end, I think it will come down to how the upper echelon of contemporary art buyers want to experience and purchase art online. We have the advantage that we've already launched and made money, our galleries established relationships and made sales, and now we're on to stage two.
I think that Jen Bekman of 20x200 is doing great things. She really has her target market figured out. Just this week I received in the mail the newest West Elm catalogue and saw that she's partnered with them to sell limited editions as part of their fall offerings. I mean, that's just smart marketing right there.