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6 Female Founders Of Art World Businesses Share Real Talk
The best advice from the ladies on top
Art Stuff 21 Dec 2020

We love learning about the careers of powerful women running businesses in the art world, but did you know that less than 20% of business founders in all sectors across the world are female? We believe that women should empower one another, especially when embarking on the journey to start a business can be so scary and daunting. So, we spoke to six of our favourite arty business women to learn about their journeys, their businesses and what advice they would give to other women looking to become artrepreneurs!

Barbora Půlpánová, Founder EDUART EXPERIENCE

Barbora Pulpanova at Trafo Gallery. Photo by Vojtech Veskrna

Who are you, and what’s your business about?

I am Barbora Půlpánová, the founder of the EDUART EXPERIENCE. Our mission is to guide art lovers through the Central and Eastern European art market and provide local collectors with an international perspective. We have partnered with renowned specialists and art professionals to carefully curate two six-month programmes and offer a wide range of art concierge services.

What motivated you to start your own business?

There is much opportunity for growth in the art markets of Central and Eastern Europe as they have yet to reach a thoroughly international level. Not only are international collectors increasingly recognising the quality of CEE art, but local collectors are also refining their habits. With the growing wealth in the region, there is an increasing number of art lovers looking to invest in art and expand their collecting interests to the international market.

What are your biggest challenges?

We believe that art market education along with nurturing the passion for art will inevitably lead to seasoned art collecting. The more someone collects, the more the artists thrive. We hope that our project will help cultivate the entire art ecosystem. Gallerists, curators and art advisors will benefit from collaborating with us through the opportunity to reach out to new audiences.

Who supported you the most along the way?

I have had the best teachers to learn from and I am incredibly grateful for getting the opportunity to garner extensive art world experience along with broad international contacts while working as the Global Press and Communications Officer at Christie’s Education in London. My family and close friends have also been very supportive and I wouldn’t have launched my own business without them.

What would you do differently today?

Nothing – I rather look forward than go back in time.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about their own business in the art world?

If you have an interesting idea which can solve some problem, go for it! The most important thing is just to start somewhere and then you can keep on adjusting it along the way according to the current situation and feedback you receive.  I kicked off with programmes for local audience and now I am working on a special online course for anyone who is interested in the CEE art scene.

Chiara Pozzi, Founder Illustrzioni Seriali

Who are you, and what’s your business about?

I am Chiara Pozzi and in 2017 I founded Illustrazioni Seriali. Based in Milan, Illustrazioni Seriali is a digital platform which focuses on curatorial projects, working both with Italian and international illustrators, and creating a space for them to research and propagate the knowledge of the art of illustration and figurative painting.

After curating the illustration section of Affordable Art Fair in 2019 and again in 2020, Illustrazioni Seriali has now curated its first artist residency titled Spazi (Italian for ‘Spaces’), taking place at the renowned graphic-arts and screen printing studio Fallani Venezia.

What motivated you to start your own business?

After working in the contemporary art world for 10 years, I realised that illustration was massively ignored by the art system, and I wanted to focus on this field, working with major illustrators and discovering brand new talents.

What are your biggest challenges?

I would love to keep doing what I love: collaborate with illustrators, art galleries and institutions. In the last year Illustrazioni Seriali started to work also as illustration agency, delivering special projects for brands.

Who supported you the most along the way?

My main supporters are illustrators, artists and all the people I have been working with since the beginning. On top of this I have to admit that recently the art system started to show a fresh interest in illustration.

What would you do differently today?

I obviously made many mistakes but I don’t regret any of them because every mistake was useful to make my path clear to me.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business in the art world?

Study. Find out what you really love. Believe in yourself. Work hard. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Valerie von Meiss, Founder of The Curve

Photo credit Uli Kaufmann

Who are you, and what’s your business about?

Hey my name is Valerie. Originally from Zurich, I live in Berlin and I am the founder of the Curve. The Curve is a private art space and nomadic gallery exclusively dedicated to the exhibition and promotion of contemporary collage art.

Founded 3 years ago in the round shaped hallway of my apartment in Berlin Mitte, the Curve regularly takes over pop-up spaces and believes in collaborations beyond the traditional gallery landscape.

What motivated you to start your own business?

I was always fascinated with works on paper, interventions on photography, assemblage and collage art for years. After having done some thorough research in this space, I realised that there is no gallery out there that specialises exclusively on contemporary collage. That’s how I found my niche.

The second inspiration was my new flat at the time, which consists of a round shaped corridor. That corridor became ‘the Curve’. I have always appreciated the concept of the old “salons”, where art could be experienced in an intimate setting, as opposed to in a white cube.

What are your biggest challenges?

Focusing on a niche market has not always been easy. While the recognition of contemporary collage as an established art form has increased tremendously over the past few years, I have experienced quite some scepticism at the beginning towards this type of art. 

On a more personal note, I am challenged sometimes by the immense workload given the Curve is a one woman show. There are periods where I wished a day had more than 24 hours and going forward I will definitely need a pair of (passionate) helping hands.

Who supported you the most along the way?

My biggest support has truly been my mother. She has been a photography collector for almost 30 years and knows the art world very well. Her motto: just do it.

What would you do differently today?

Was I to start the Curve today, I would try to worry less. Worries are just negative thoughts in the ways of positive outcomes. I have learned that with optimistic persistence things tend to fall into place – sometimes sooner, sometimes later – but that’s ok.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business in the art world?

While I sincerely appreciate and respect the traditional art space, I think there is plenty of opportunity to disrupt it too. If you are thinking of entering this industry, be brave, break the rules and create your own “art world”.

Eliza Ali, Founder of ART SHE SAYS

Who are you, and what’s your business about?

I’m Eliza Sara Ali, New Yorker, artrepreneur, art dealer, Creative Director and Editor-in-Chief of ART SHE SAYS. My business is about empowering women in the art industry through a multi-purpose platform: luxury content, exhibitions, art advisory, and exclusive networking events.

What motivated you to start your own business?

I became bored of working for other people and wanted to do something meaningful with the ability to create my own world and call my own shots.

What are your biggest challenges?

It’s a balancing act of multi-tasking and planning many things at the same time. I have 50 jobs daily and never sleep!

Who supported you the most along the way?

Self-love and my intuition.

What would you do differently today?

I would make time to meditate more every morning.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own business in the art world?

Block the noise. Forge your own path. Don’t be afraid to proudly tell people who you are and what you’re doing. Stay passionate, trust yourself and never give up. The right people will notice.

Helen Toomer, Founder of Art Mamas Alliance, UPSTATE ART WEEKEND and Co-Founder of STONELEAF RETREAT

Helen Toomer in front of Macon Reed’s new mural at STONELEAF RETREAT

Who are you, and what’s your business about?

My name is Helen Toomer and I’m based in Upstate New York, where I run multiple organizations. I am Co-Founder of STONELEAF RETREAT, an artist residency focused on supporting women artists and families, Founder of UPSTATE ART WEEKEND and Co-Founder of Art Mamas Alliance with Katy Donoghue, which is a support group for parents in the arts.

What motivated you to start your own business?

I don’t take orders well! 😉

What are your biggest challenges?

Finding enough time to execute all the things I want to do, especially during a pandemic, while also raising a tiny baby monster child.

Who supported you the most along the way?

My EPIC husband Eric, who is my biggest champion. He believes in what I’m/we’re creating and always gives me honest feedback…even though I don’t always listen! Also

Tiana Webb Evans – who has helped me grow, both emotionally and professionally.

What would you do differently today?

Nothing – I don’t believe in regrets. But also – I don’t have time to go down that rabbit hole of ‘what ifs’!

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business in the art world?

Do your research. Confide in your closest friends. Ask for help. Believe you can do it. Make a business plan. Do it because you love it. Failure is part of the journey, but most importantly – trust your gut.

Stephanie Utz, Co-Founder MUCA

Who are you, and what’s your business about?

I am Stephanie Utz, a real ‘Münchner Kindl’ with a profound love for Munich, where I was born. I spent my childhood in the arts district of Haidhausen, where I was inspired by free-spirited and creative figures in the neighborhood. Yet my career started off quite classically. I trained in advertising, pursued studies in business and finance, hold a diploma in economics and graduated as a private equity advisor from the European Business School (EBS). In my initial professional years as a Key Account Manager for one of the most successful fast-food corporations, I developed my expertise in brand building, PR and marketing. Then followed a 15-year career with various international posts for one of the world’s largest insurance companies. Thanks to my long-standing experience, I have comprehensive competences in business development, finance, marketing, and intercultural cooperation.

Throughout the years, I cultivated my personal passion for introducing people to street and urban art and opening access to art in innovative ways. This passion inspired me in 2015 to found MUCA together with my husband – Germany’s first museum for urban art, which soon became one of the most distinguished institutions for street and urban art. As COO of the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA), I am responsible for the institution’s entire operative processes, including PR, marketing, management, and business development, setting new standards for cultural programming. I am also the head of KUNSTLABOR, one of the biggest interim-use cultural projects in Munich.

What motivated you to start your own business?

Though I had a great career, I felt my creative and entrepreneurial side dying off. It took me a while to follow my inner call, but one day I realized that if I don’t follow my own vision, I might look back in anger.

What are your biggest challenges?

It’s sometimes hard to turn off the “business mode”. I had to find new ways to separate private and business.

Who supported you the most along the way?

My husband Christian

What would you do differently today?

I would take the risk to build up a solid team right from the start. In the beginning I did most of the stuff just on my own, which made me lost in the odds-and-ends and absorbed a lot of energy.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business in the art world?

Dare to follow your dreams, don’t be afraid of making mistakes and embrace all steps as a learning curve.

Text Lizzy Vartanian

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