This post is part of a series of interviews with influencers in the contemporary art world.
Nicole Berry, the founder of Accessible Art and Deputy Director of EXPO CHICAGO, has touched many parts of the international contemporary world as a teacher, writer, curator and art fair director. Nicole's specialty is emerging contemporary art. She's getting ready for the upcoming international art fair, EXPO CHICAGO, which opens September 18-21.
Brett Wallace: What's the best leadership advice you've ever received?
Nicole Berry: Put your own oxygen mask on first because if you don't take care of yourself, you are of no use to others.
BW: What advice you do you have for young professionals entering the art world?
NB: With the increased globalization of art, the landscape of the art world has changed a lot of over the last few years. I think you should always be willing to reinvent yourself, take risks, and adapt to an ever-changing market. When I was first starting out I only knew about artists, dealers, curators and auction house specialists, now there are so many options in the art world to find something that speaks to you. And if there isn't, then go out there and create it!
BW: What's your advice for new art collectors that want to start collecting?
NB: My advice is the same for new collectors as it is for established collectors---buy what you love. Art is a gift. It is inspiring and life-affirming so love what you have or what is the point?
BW: How would suggest someone who does not know much about art, but wants to learn more, begin their journey?
NB: Start visiting galleries and museums. Look at art magazines and go online. Visit fairs and ask questions. Talk to people in the art world--people are there to help you and there is no stupid question. Try to see as much art as you can so you begin to know what you respond to. As you see more, your comfort level will increase and your eye will develop. Spend time with art, don't just rush through to "see" something but really investigate what you are looking at. Do you love it? Hate it? Why? Just as you give time to theater, music and dance, give that same attention to art.
BW: What first attracted you to contemporary art?
NB: I took an AP Art History class in high school that sparked my love of art but it wasn't until 1993, my first Venice Biennale, that the world of contemporary art opened up for me.
BW: What inspired you to start your blog, AccessibleArtNY.com?
NB: I have a lot of friends who were intimidated by the art world. They didn't want to go to museums or galleries for fear of "not getting it." I strongly believe that art is a part of everyone's life in some capacity and that we should embrace it and lean into the unknown instead of thinking there is a right or wrong way to interact with art. That being said, I was getting out to lectures, studios and museums and seeing as much as I could to begin to develop my own eye. I wanted to share that experience with others (perhaps due to my education background) and so I began writing in a very casual way about my personal journeys in the NYC art world. And as I traveled, that art world broadened. To write about art keeps me grounded and reminds me why I got into this business to begin with--it is my passion.
BW: Tell me more about EXPO CHICAGO and what's happening in Chicago.
NB: The history of art fairs in Chicago is a long one. Well before Art Basel Miami Beach, Chicago had the only international art fair in the United States. People have a nostalgia for that fair from the 80s and 90s and they love the city of Chicago. In addition to that, Chicago's art scene is having a tremendous moment with artists and curators flourishing, creating a dynamism that is palpable. EXPO CHICAGO was the vision of Tony Karman, a 30-year resident of Chicago with deep ties to the art community. It is an international art fair of the highest caliber with 140 galleries exhibiting. In addition, there is our Dialogues series (discussions among key figures in the art world), large-scale and site specific work, videos and special exhibitions from around the world.
BW: How have the major art fairs changed the art world over the last decade?
NB: Art fairs have become an integral part of the art market. Galleries do a good portion of their business at fairs where tens of thousands of people see the work as opposed to the foot traffic they get in the gallery. But there is something to be said for the brick and mortar space where thoughtful shows are crafted, that's how the artist's reputations get built.
BW: Who are the your favorite Artists? Galleries? Curators?
NB: My favorite artists (out of my price range) are Jasper Johns and Doris Salcedo. But in my personal collection, I own works by Matthew Brannon, Sanford Biggers, Sarah Cain, Fred Tomaselli, Laura Lancaster, and Hugh-Scott Douglas to name a few. Galleries, kind of hard to say since I work for an art fair, but I will say that when I am back in NYC I always hit the UES, LES and Chelsea as there is amazing work to be seen in all of those neighborhoods. I think that Massimiliano Gioni did an amazing job with the last iteration of the Venice Biennale and I have seen quite a few. I am loving working with Renaud Proch for the fair this year. Locally, I am blessed to be in a city with some of the best curators in the world. I think Michael Darling, Dieter Roelstrate and Naomi Beckwith at the MCA Chicago are doing fantastic things, Hamza Walker at the Renaissance Society and James Rondeau at the AIC are also smart and creative curators.