Sheri Levine and I met over ten years ago when introduced by a mutual friend. Sheri is a New York based Art Consultant, and having grown up in and around the art world – Sheri has an amazing eye for- and appreciation of- art, in all its forms. I bought my first piece of art from her (STILL love it), which helped to foster my love of art and desire to fill my home with more works that fit our evolving tastes and particular spaces. I chatted with Sheri on how she builds her personal collection and helps others to do the same – read on…
FO40: Sheri, how did you get interested in art and the art world?
Sheri: I grew up in a family that loved and collected art, so looking at art has always been a part of my life. I remember going to galleries in Soho as a young child when there wasn’t even really a place to get a coffee! I then studied art history in college and did internships everywhere from the Metropolitan Museum to the magazine Art in America. My first job after college was working for a firm focused on corporate art consulting. I took a detour for a few years after getting my MBA at Columbia- but art has always been a passion and a part of my life.
FO40: You have such great relationships with the galleries. Tell us how you built and made those?
Sheri: I have been collecting on my own and working with clients for over 15 years. During this time, I have formed many trusted relationships with great galleries and dealers. I think the basis of these relationships are like any others: loyalty, honesty and kindness. The art world can be tricky to navigate and I think the galleries appreciate dealing with someone who is open and trustworthy. In addition, after all this time, the galleries know that my clients and I do not buy to “flip” (sell quickly for a profit). We buy because we love the art and buy to hold so galleries want access to my clients. The galleries appreciate that I bring in long-term owners of their artists’ works.
FO40: What can someone expect when working with you to help buy art for their home?
Sheri: My role is to make the “looking process” easy and efficient. After I get a sense of what my client’s taste is, the walls they wish to hang art on, and the “look” of their homes, I will set up meetings at galleries to view various pieces in a private setting. I have knowledge of the artists whom the various galleries represent beyond those that are currently on view. Therefore, my clients have access to many pieces of art they would otherwise not see or even know existed. In addition- because of my strong relationships with the galleries- I have access to new pieces by in-demand artists. Whenever possible, I can facilitate bringing a piece of art into a home on approval if a client would like to see it in a specific space. I’ve also worked directly with artists on commissions. Finally, I have a very trustworthy network of art handlers and installers and I will always be at the client’s home for installation of their purchase.
FO40: What do you look for when buying art? Tell us how and what magic works.
Sheri: The simple answer is that I buy what I love when I buy for myself and I help my clients buy what they love! The more complicated answer is to a more complicated question: what makes you fall in love with a piece of art? Sometimes it is due to familiarity to other art one has seen and liked; sometimes a work will really resonate due to its “different-ness.” Either way, I believe that the more you look at art and familiarize yourself with what is out there (both old and new), the easier it is to “fall in love.” One’s eye becomes more discerning over time. I often see clients fall in love with a piece that a year earlier they may not have even considered. I do have a few rules that I follow and recommend to my clients: don’t buy a piece of art if you don’t really like the artist in general but happen to like one particular work; learn about an artist and see some of their other pieces before committing to a purchase. I usually don’t fall in love at first sight unless it is a piece by an artist I have been pursuing and I know what I am looking for. For clients, I will also find out the level of general interest from other collectors, auction results (if applicable), and curatorial interest (museums) when that makes sense.
FO40: Art is very personal. How do you adapt that to buying for others vs. yourself?
Sheri: That is a great question and one that comes up a lot. I often start by asking a client to tell me a few artists whose work they really like as well as a few that they don’t (which can be just as important). Often (as was the case when we started working together) a client will come with a specific artist in mind that they’d like to buy and need help finding the perfect piece. This is always a great starting point because it gives me insight into the client’s sensibilities and taste. I also look at the space that we are buying for and base a lot on that. The art should fit in with the other décor and it also should fit on the walls! I believe that one of my strengths as an art consultant is that I have a good sense of other people’s taste. I ultimately want someone else’s collection to look like they hand-picked everything they own and be a reflection of their taste.
FO40: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Sheri: There are many artists that I have my eye on now. A few that I like who currently have shows in NYC are Daniel Gordon (James Fuentes Gallery), Uta Barth (Tanya Bonakdar Gallery) and James Casebere (Sean Kelly Gallery). I also currently like the work of Mika Tajima, Dashiell Manley, Matthew Brandt and Ori Gersht. On my aspirational wish list are pieces by Josiah McElheny, Rob Pruitt, Liza Lou and a commissioned space by Richard Woods.
FO40: Do you have a favorite piece of art?
Sheri: I really can’t say that I have a favorite piece of art. However, one of my favorite pieces is one of the first things I ever bought- it is a still life photograph by an artist named Claus Goedicke. Although he never ended up having a celebrated career, I have always had this piece hanging and everyone who sees it comments on it. This is a great testament that you should buy what you love and what speaks to you.
FO40: I have bought such amazing art with you over the past 10 years. I never move it on my walls – do you think that people should rotate their art?
Sheri: I don’t think there are any rules about rotating art. However, I have found that when you change where you are hanging a work, it often changes your relationship to the piece of art. I recently moved a photograph by Matthew Pillsbury from a wall where you could only see it from a distance to a space where the piece is accessible up close- it is a very different experience and vibe. In many cases- especially in NYC- the size of the piece may only work in one place. I have found that I end up rotating art when I buy something new and want it prominently in my mix.
FO40: Thank you! How do we get in touch with you?
Sheri: I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also, please feel free to look at my website. Thank you, Tonia!