The Business of Art with Sarah Hoover

The Business of Art with Sarah Hoover-1

Sarah Hoover is an artist liaison at the Gagosian Gallery – which is to say, she is a connector of powerful things for powerful people. Working in the New York arm of a ‘global art octopus’ that spans sixteen spaces from Geneva to Hong Kong, she helps improve the understanding between artists and buyers and push the business of creativity in the process.

What have you and the Gagosian Gallery been busy with recently?
In the past week we’ve opened exhibitions at two of our four New York spaces, one by Albert Oehlen downtown at 21st street and another by Sterling Ruby uptown at 980 Madison Avenue. I was also just in LA for our Joe Bradley opening. We are always busy! Larry (Gagosian) is a fabulous leader and he never slows down.
What do you think is the biggest change facing the art industry?
A lot of transactions have moved into the online world. This is quite a departure. When I first started in the art world there were lots of clients who didn’t even like to buy art off a jpeg, and I didn’t start that long ago. Now entire transactions happen entirely online!
So how can we prepare?
I still believe that handmade things are best understood in person, but I also think from a customer service standpoint it’s good to be prepared with the latest technologies since they often make client’s lives much easier. I’m not saying every gallery should take their inventory online, but there are all sorts of apps and programs (like my friend Alexandra Chemla’s ArtBinder, for example) which make the digital experience much richer and more useful.
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Very Lutter, Radio Telescope, Effelsberg, XV: September 12, 2013. Silver gelatine print. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Is it easy to point to a particular country or specific cities around the world that are aggressively engaging in high-end art these days?
There are fabulous, sophisticated and intelligent collectors all over the world, from Des Moines to Doha.
How do you balance creative objectives vs. business ones?
I would only recommend someone buy something if I really believe in it, and I always give clients my candid opinion about different work. And if someone comes to me looking for something that I don’t particularly like, I still try to find them the best possible example for their budget.
What is more important to the longevity of the art industry – artists creating for the desires of buyers, or buyers acclimatizing to the work of artists. The greatest artists of our history have worked totally outside of the comfort zone of most collectors. There are really market driven artists who find immediate success but rarely do they end up being the type of artist to shift paradigms and innovate drastically.
What are some non-creative qualities that ensure success in the creative world?  
Of course, any business skill can help you be financially successful when you work in any industry or realm. But for us, making great art is the most important element to success. Being able to talk about your work and manage people who work for you (or work with you) doesn’t hurt – but that’s also why you pay your dealer a percentage of sales.
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Very Lutter, Campo San Moise, Venice, VIII: March 4, 2006. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
How do more remote artists get noticed in a crowded market like NYC?
By being great. There is no hidden Van Gogh. One of the advantages of the internet is that if you’re really great you won’t stay a secret too long. My advice to young or remote artists is to do what you love and work as hard as you can, and get so good at it that no one can ignore you.
What is something you get to look forward to every day in your profession?
Meeting new people and talking to ones I already know. It’s a really social profession but the kind of chatter that is required is about ideas – in a lot of jobs it’s about people, or stuff, so that seems like a privilege.
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