Carriage and personal style hold a lot of weight in a professional setting—especially in the art world, where the culture is marked by visuals and the ideas behind them.
One’s image, for all intents and purposes, is an impression rather than an actuality. But in the art community of New York City, art does truly reflect life. The industry is more or less about selling and promoting works that are meant to inspire, so its gatekeepers have creative license in the wardrobe department. “It's a no surprise that women in the art world are known for having great style,” observes Sarah Harrelson, founder and editor-in-chief of Cultured magazine. “They are clearly visually-oriented, creative types who have great taste.” That said, they also cater to the upper echelons of society, so adhering to a uniform that is equal parts elegant and fashion forward is paramount.
By many accounts, the art scene is a close-knit pack of dealers, auctioneers, publicists, marketers and collectors that are mostly devoid of public interest. However, with the onslaught of style blogs, Pinterest and Instagram, some are now known for their personal style. Four, in particular, have caught our eye—not only for their impeccable sartorial choices, but also for their industry successes.
Veronique Ansorge, Director, David Zwirner Gallery
Originally from Germany, Veronique Ansorge moved to New York City nine years ago and began her career at David Zwirner Gallery. “I started off as David’s assistant and eventually worked my way up to Director,” she says. From answering phone calls and planning schedules to now representing the gallery at art fairs and working one-on-one with artists, it would appear that putting in the time does in fact reap the rewards. And with such a hefty title, dressing the part became a requisite. “Given that we [gallerists] attend so many art events and openings, we always have to have a sense of glamour,” she says. “It needs to be something between an elegant casual-chic and dressy.”
Bettina Prentice, Founder and Creative Director, Prentice Art Communications
With stints at Sotheby’s, Briggs Robinson Gallery and Yvon Lambert Gallery, Bettina Prentice has amassed an incredible CV. Then in 2009, she branched out on her own and founded Prentice Art Communications, a boutique integrative agency that focuses on the art and luxury industries. Her clients include Tiffany & Co., Art Binder and the Art Production Fund. “I am incredibly proud to have worked with some of the most respected galleries, museums and artists in the world,” she says. “I love what I do.” Being immersed in the art community for over a decade and loving it for so long has definitely influenced her style. “I find myself drawn to color a bold patterns,” she says.
Susan Cernek, Chief Marketing Officer, Paddle8
Susan Cernek’s career is unlike most in the art community. As she describes: “The fortuitous journey includes gallery scene to fashion bible to digital forefront to retail giant to, most recently, the ultimate art-world maverick: online auction house Paddle8.” Her style, on the other hand, remained resolute, sticking to a uniform that seemingly works in most workspaces. “[Working in the arts] created a professional backdrop in which my preferred mode of dress (Fran Lebowitz meets Ice Storm) is deemed acceptable,” she says. And as the former Executive Fashion and Beauty Editor at Glamour.com, who can also cite Barthes and Cocteau, she would know best.
Emily Sarokin, AVP, Head of Gallery Operations, Christie’s:
“There's an incredible spectrum of personal style in the art world and being in an operations role at a major auction house means I get to try it all,” says Emily Sarokin. As the head of all gallery operations at one of the most distinguished auction houses in the world, she, indeed, wears many hats. And because she oversees all facets of exhibitions, from permits and installations to attending the evening sales, her overall style is the sum of all her professional parts. As she says: “There's the 'artist in the studio' look, which translates to my weekend install wear—all the way to Thomas Crown Affair, a level of chic I reserve for evening sales, our most special occasions. Somewhere in the middle is my true personal style.”
What was a particularly memorable gallery show or event that you worked on?
Veronique Ansorge: “There are so many memorable moments. But one, for example, happened last year. We had an exhibition of Jeff Koons’s work, where he showed these wonderful white sculptures with these blue gazing balls. Everything happened so last minute, but the way it came together was so fascinating, glamorous and engaging.”
Susan Cernek: “Dining on dishes culled from Dali’s Surrealist Cookbook at the Paris fashion house Deyrolle (complete with “blood vial” shots), on the eve of Paddle8’s Damien Hirst avec Deyrolle collaboration, comes to mind.”
Bettina Prentice: “Working with Art Production Fund after Hurricane Sandy to publicize Yvette Mattern’s Global Rainbow: After the Storm was a lifetime highlight. Mattern set up a monumental outdoor laser installation on top of the Standard Hotel at the High Line, which reached from the lower west side across Brooklyn and out to the Rockaways. It was a call to action to aid communities devastated by the storm.”
Emily Sarokin: “My most memorable experience is of the design and build of Christie’s’ new gallery spaces with Selldorf Architects. I turned four years of getting to know the Christie's schedule, brand, standards of exhibition design, art handling, lighting, rigging, all into the development of a stunning new exhibition space that opened last year. Seeing the galleries transform with each new exhibition won't get old for a while.”
Do you have an art piece or artist that made you fall in love with the art world?
Veronique Ansorge: A long time ago, I saw a beautiful early painting by Luc Tuymans in an exhibition at the K21 in Germany. It really stuck with me, so when I came to New York, I found the gallery that represented him, which so happened to be David Zwirner. It is how I knew this was a great gallery.
Susan Cernek: “As a former fashion scribe, I’ve always been drawn to those who employ language and wit: Kruger, Baldessari, Ruscha, Emin, Nauman, and Weiner, among others. In a rare union of the two realms, a guilty pleasure gift-shop purchase long ago—a t-shirt of Baldessari’s “Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell” from his “Pure Beauty” show—is still a weekend staple.”
Bettina Prentice: “So many—the late Joseph Cornell, Fred Tomaselli, Wangechi Mutu, the late Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama—really too many to name.”
Emily Sarokin: “There's Caravaggio, who was the subject of my first serious study of an artist and his time. He's the Casanova of young art historians. Then there's Aaron Douglas, whose most famous works aren't found on big canvases in museums but instead in books and on magazine covers from the Harlem Renaissance. I revere them as two of the greatest artists in history and for that, and all of their differences, the art world is rich and endlessly engaging.”
By Barry Samaha