Spotlight Interview: Devon Gilbert

Devon Gilbert: Associate, David Zwirner

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Double Major: Art History & Business and Enterprise Management with a Concentration in Arts Markets

Minor: Studio Art

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Devon Gilbert took part in WFU programs such as Management in the Arts and the SUAAC ‘Art Buying Trip’ before graduating in 2017. He also took advantage of internships at SECCA, Cristin Tierney Gallery and Christie’s during undergrad. The Winston-Salem native walked us through his path to NYC, including some great networking tips.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? Did your areas of study inform or drive your career path?

Devon Gilbert: I was an Art History and BEM double major with with a concentration in Art Markets and a minor in Studio Art. In my sophomore year, I took the Management in the Visual Arts, a class that was co-taught by faculty in the School of business and the Art Department. Part of the course was a study tour to New York and it was there that I met the director of Finance at David Zwirner, James Morrill, a Wake alum and a co-owner of a gallery in the Lower East Side. When I was looking for job senior year, Leigh Ann Hallberg helped me reconnect with James. The timing worked out perfectly as the finance team at Zwirner was expanding and they were looking for a new member at a junior level. They needed someone with some accounting and finance knowledge who was interested in the business side of art, so that ended up being a perfect fit for me.

One thing that was particularly important, in terms of learning about career paths in the art work and making connections, was networking. The Management in the Visual Arts class was more focused on the breadth of the art market, including all the facets of art industry in NY and I was able to learn about careers I’d never even been aware of. The art buying trip also allowed for good opportunities to connect and build rapport with people in the gallery industry that were not necessarily connected to Wake Forest.

DL: Those sound like amazing opportunities. So, how did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held that led up to your position at David Zwirner? Do you have any tips or suggestions for Wake students on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs especially in the art world?

DG: The Summer before I came to Wake, I was an intern with the Registrar & Exhibitions Manager at SECCA. I grew up in Winston-Salem and had met the Registrar previously, so this connection helped, but this internship gave me my first taste of working in the arts.

The next Summer I interned at the Mint Museum in Charlotte with the Advancement department, working with clients and donors. And I had an internship at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art. Since I wanted to work my way up to an internship at the Smithsonian, the Met, or MoMA before graduation, I was looking for internships that would help prepare me. I worked 2 days a week at the Mint, dealing with affiliate groups, members programs, and working to analyze data about memberships. I was at Reynolda House the other 3 days a week, with the education department. There I was learning about the house and the art, as well as giving tours. I also completed a research project and presentation on work selected from collection and analyzing it in context of piece of literature and music from same year.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I interned with Cristin Tierney at her gallery in NY. I met Cristin during the Arts Management trip, but I was initially introduced to her through Allison Perkins, the Director of Reynolda House. When I was applying for that internship, she knew me and knew that I was interested in working in the arts, so my previous interactions with her definitely helped me.

My last internship was at Christie’s in the 20-21st Century Decorative Art and Design group and the sale and photographs department. When I applied, I didn’t really know any alumni at Christie’s, but Cristin did help me by making a few introductions with her contacts from her time at Christie’s.

In terms of tips for interviewing, I would say recommend that you always try to be authentic and let your genuine interest show. I think when we are preparing for an interview or deciding how to talk about ourselves, it’s easy for things to feel too rehearsed. As for networking, just go for it. In my experience, Wake alums are always interested in helping out students and fellow alums and I’ve always had great conversations with them. LinkedIn is really useful as well, for seeing what people are up to and for making that first connection.

DL: Thank you for walking us through all those amazing internships! While looking back on these internships, is there anything you think Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

DG: The Business School requires an internship between Junior and Senior year which I think is a great thing. It would be great for the university to encourage that for everyone because it really does help you figure out what you want to do and it makes you more marketable for other internships or jobs down the road. There’s really no downside to having additional internships. Career services at Wake does the best they can with art/art history students and is still improving in this arena. Right now, art students have to make things happen for themselves which isn’t easy, but it is beneficial for the people who come out of it. But that’s part of the reason DeacLink exists, so arts alumni can help current students or recent grads.

DL: In New York, what is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

DG: Working at Zwirner and being so plugged into the art world has given me access to an immense amount of art. New York really is the centerpiece of the global art world, so there are dozens of great shows happening at any given time. Especially if you like post-war and contemporary art, I think there really is no better place. There was a show at Pace a couple of months ago of Louise Nevelson sculptures. I am a huge fan of her work and Wake has one of her pieces in it’s collection. The Met Breuer had a phenomenal show of Edvard Munch paintings, which really displayed the breadth in his work. I also got to see Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at Christie’s before the auction. Overall, I feel like I’ve been able to take advantage of all these amazing opportunities and I’ve gotten to see some really incredible works of art.

DL: Wow, that sounds incredible! Do you have a favorite part about working for Zwirner?

DG: There was a Richard Serra show opening earlier this year, and he (Serra) took the entire staff on a walk-through of the show. We got to talk about all the work including the sculptures and prints. Overall, it was such a rare opportunity where I was able to hear the artist talk about his work in person. I also really loved seeing the 25th anniversary show for Zwirner. I really got to see the history of the gallery and a lot of great work from all of our artists. It was amazing to see the arc of the gallery and our artists since its creation.

DL: What’s next for you?

DG: I was recently promoted to a new role within department, so I’m working on that transition. Right now I’m focused on my work at Zwirner.

DL: Do you have any advice you would like to give to the readers?

DG: Aside from internships and general networking, I would recommend getting to know your fellow students at Wake. I am still in contact with some of the Seniors from when I was a Freshman. I followed their example and they have helped me make a lot of connections. Other than that, just take advantage of all the opportunities you can at Wake!

Spotlight Interview: Mary Leigh Cherry

Mary Leigh Cherry: Los Angeles Director, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

WFU Class of 1997

Major: Art History, Criticism & Conservation

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Mary Leigh Cherry serves as Director at the newly opened location of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Los Angeles. In July 2018, Mary Leigh spoke with us about job hunting, owning a gallery, the future of art and tech, and much more.

DeacLink: So I know you just made an exciting career transition - tell me more about it.

Mary Leigh Cherry: Yes, I am now the Los Angeles director for Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, which has always been one of my favorite programs in New York. In 1997, the first show I saw at her space was Charles Long. The show we just opened last week, was also Charles Long, and his 12th solo with the gallery. I have known him off and on through the years. It’s perfect timing to have this show up now as the inaugural exhibition in the LA space. It’s been great working with Tanya, who has had a slightly longer career than I have. The artists she represents are unbelievable and also international. I wasn’t planning on this as a path, but the timing and opportunity were right.

DL: Mind walking me through your career up until this point?

MLC: I have had three versions of the gallery over the years. It started as Cherry in a garage in Venice, CA. I started the next version with my husband, cherrydelosreyes. Then his career as an artist started taking off, and I took on a partner which became Cherry and Martin. It was a full fledged program for 12 years. It started with representing artists of our generation. Then we also moved into representing estates and established artists that were overlooked and underrecognized. We built markets for their careers by applying the same principles as we were for young artists. By the time I left, we had three estates, people in their 70s and 80s, and down to people in their 30s and 40s. Most of the artists were American, but our clients were from all over the world, and we showed international artists in group shows.

DL: What led to your transition?

MLC: In terms of stepping away from the partnership, I think that at one point I saw myself always running the gallery with my business partner or at least staying involved in some way. We were reaching the point where we needed to reinvest, such as acquire a building, and it required me to get even more involved with someone. Personality wise, I was always the person wanting to grow and take risks. I am very entrepreneurial, and I just felt like I was the one pushing, pushing, pushing. I don’t deny that the growth was stressful and risky. At every crucial moment, the growth was what made us successful and kept us from going under. In 2008, we moved to a bigger space in a better neighborhood. We wouldn’t have survived the downturn if we hadn’t moved.

My business partner wasn’t as keen on continuing to grow, and I personally wanted a change from that relationship dynamic. The art world is also changing, and I felt the need to investigate that. I took a sabbatical for 4 months, and was doing research and thinking about new ways to work in the art world, keeping technology in mind. It was definitely hard to leave the artists I represented, and I am still friends with so many of them, and we will stay in touch. My partnership was 50/50 and we really did split the work, but our goals weren’t matching up.

DL: Most people from Wake tend to think about a move to New York after graduation. Tell me a bit more about the art scene in LA.

MLC: In the art world I am in, there’s a mass-migration to LA. The New York art world is tough unless you have access to the top five or ten galleries. It is hard to work there, make art there, and live there. LA isn’t inexpensive, but we have space, artists, collectors, amazing museums, and great weather. Everyone is moving here. There are problems with traffic, making things a logistical nightmare. It’s not a perfect utopia but considering other places, it is the top coastal city to live in.

DL: What did you do right after graduating?

MLC: I went to Wake Forest’s Casa Artom in Venice, Italy as a sophomore. After graduation I was hired by Wake to go abroad as Tom Phillip’s student assistant for the semester at Casa Artom. I tried to stay on longer, but there was not a lot of work and I didn’t have a work visa. After my contract ended, I stayed in Venice teaching English as a second language and receiving pay under the table. I was essentially an illegal immigrant. However, I wasn’t making ends meet since it was not an above board job and I was fearful of getting caught without the correct visa. So I moved back to the states not knowing what I was going to do.

I had met Mercedes Teixido (Wake alum) at Casa Artom. She is an artist and professor at Pomona College. She visited Venice and in exchange for staying a couple of nights at Casa Artom, she took our students to see the Venice Biennale. When I came back to the US, I house sat for her in Venice Beach and applied for jobs all over San Francisco to try and stay in California. I knew Northern California pretty well because I had spent summers in Los Gatos and Santa Cruz during college. Back then, LA was where you went to do crazy things. In the 90s the migration wasn’t to live in LA, it was to live in San Francisco, but I fell in love with LA. So I started looking for jobs here, and I only had to temp for a few weeks before landing a job at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (now known as Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles). Within a year of being at the Museum, I started the garage gallery, Cherry.

DL: Tell me a bit more about some of the ideas you are working on.

MLC: One thing that I am curious about is how blockchain will affect the art world, and I am advising on how it could. Digital currency is big in LA, bigger than in Silicon Valley, so I find that fascinating. But blockchain is something different than currency, in terms of what you can do with regards to authenticating art. I'm doing this because I am interested in the topic, and I want to stay future thinking. In terms of a business model, I was looking into creating a bespoke shared-resources firm. It’s sort of like WeWork or The Wing where the offices are handpicked by me. This version would be for the art world where you are sharing administrative resources, and the services in the various offices are say an art attorney, advisor, philanthropic concierge, etc. It also could be an event space for exhibitions, fundraisers, or political events.

Another thing I am working on is for Wake. In 2011, I was in Aspen talking with clients and I hadn’t been to the Biennale that year, but I was hearing about this project that was at Casa Artom. However, it didn’t say Wake Forest anywhere in all of the press that the project received. I shot off an email to Professor Page Laughlin trying to figure out how that was happening. Cut to 2013- I ended up doing an event at the house with fellow alum Cristin Tierney, and they sent out the Dean, who was Jacquelyn Fetrow at the time. She did some research to find out what the event was, and now the school is more aware of the extreme importance and global reach of the Venice Biennale. Wake is now in its 3rd year of a Biennale program for students. The first trip was in 2015, and last year I went over with Page for the program. I set up a lot of meetings and took the students through the Biennale during the Vernissage week while there were many of my colleagues in attendance. The next Biennale will be in 2019, and Page will be teaching the course for it, and I will go again and offer my contacts to enrich the experience for the students.

Co-Founder Q&A: Kelsey Zalimeni

Get to know Kelsey Zalimeni, Co-Founder of DeacLink.

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Kelsey Zalimeni

Art Gallerist, Thompson's London

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Studio Art with Honors

Minor: Art History

 

Q: Were you and Katie friends at Wake? Why did you two start DeacLink?

A: Katie and I both experienced a cobbled-together path of hustling for contacts and work experience in the art world as undergraduates. We ran sort of parallel paths in Scales until junior year, where we cemented a friendship during the 2013 SUAAC ('Art Buying') Trip. It's been four years since we met, and we both now work in the arts- I'm at a gallery and Kate is in recruitment for art institutions. Even though we've both made our way, a recurring discussion between us was always about the difficulty of breaking into arts jobs, particularly coming out of Wake. We thought it ironic that a healthy percentage of WFU Alumni were working as art world professionals, yet we as students had very limited knowledge of, or access to them. Our goal was to create a single online resource which would connect and inform students and alumni alike. 

 

Q: Why do Wake Arts matter to you?

A: As a Presidential, Meredith, and Dingledine Scholar (all arts-based scholarships at WFU), I owe a lot to the Wake Forest Art Department. Put simply, if it weren't for those and a few other scholarships, my experience at Wake wouldn't have been possible. Furthermore, my college soccer career was cut short due to double ACL injuries on the same knee; in the gap that Spry Stadium left, Scales became my sanctuary. The faculty in the department are stellar as well; they really invest in the students and foster their aspirations. DeacLink exists to expand and improve this effort.

 

Q: What is the coolest art exhibit you've seen?

A: The most memorable show of late has to be 'The Infinite Mix', put on by the Hayward Gallery in an off-site location. They installed 10 video pieces at The Store, some taking up entire rooms and one showing a 3D piece in the parking garage. The variety of content was excellent, including a hologram piece by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and my personal favorite, Kahlil Joseph's two-channel Kendrick-backed video, m.A.A.d. I think I spent five hours total absorbing the exhibition- but you could easily spend twice that!

 

Q: Do you have a favorite off the radar museum?

A: In London we're spoiled with many excellent museums, but one place that doesn't get enough praise is the Zabludowicz Collection. My first visit was to see a four-movie solo show born of a collabo between Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. My interest lies in crazy, post-internet digital art and they seem committed to showing lots of that.

 

Q: What has been your coolest art world experience?

A: I once had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at the Blum's home in LA. They were kind enough to show me around their insanely cool collection and shared stories about all of the Pop Art greats. I also came away with some solid life and career advice that day- shouts out to Irving and Jackie!

 

Q: Best kernel of advice you've got?

A: If you try and succeed, you did it. If you try and you fail, you still did it. Regardless, you have to keep going. 

 

 

Spotlight Interview: Caitlin Berry

Caitlin Berry: Gallerist

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Communications

Double Minor: Art History & Studio Art

Photo taken by Albert Ting at Smithsonian American Art Museum  

Photo taken by Albert Ting at Smithsonian American Art Museum 


Caitlin Berry graduated at a time when the economy was less than promising for job seekers, but embraced the opportunity to get creative with how she pursued her aspirations. Springboarding from the inaugural management role at Wake’s START Gallery, Caitlin went on to break into the New York and DC art scenes.  We’ve caught up with Caitlin to learn about her career path, and what’s next for art in DC.

 

DeacLink: What are you up to right now, both in and outside of work?

Caitlin Berry: Right now I’m the Associate Director at Hemphill Fine Arts, one of the oldest operating galleries in DC. Founded in 1993, we represent twenty-eight contemporary artists and two artist’s estates. We hold regular exhibitions here and curate two other locations in town which are more experimental. Additionally, we have a healthy secondary market program, with expertise and academic knowledge of Post-War American art and the Washington Color School. This historical side of the secondary market was my main strength when joining Hemphill. I continue to develop that program here.

My role, as it is in any small gallery, requires me to wear many hats. I do sales, a bit of artist development… which right now has consumed my last year and a half, working on a show with the newest artist to our stable, Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi. She’s been receiving great press, and rightly so, including a recent writeup from Hyperallergic. I’ve also been focused on an upcoming Washington Color School exhibition which opens at the beginning of February. We’ve been working with collectors across DC to pull that together.

Outside of work I co-chair the Communications Committee for the Art Table DC chapter, which does annual rapid-fire discussion based presentations for movers and shakers in the DC art scene- gallerists, politicians, artists, and so forth. It’s called ‘State of the Art’, and the next edition will be in the Fall.
 

DL: Take us through your journey from Wake to your current occupation.

CB: I graduated in 2009, right after the economy tanked. I remember Joe Biden speaking at our graduation, saying ‘I really envy you guys, you have this great opportunity to succeed in the face of adversity.’ At the time we all thought, ‘Yeah sure Joe.. we can’t find jobs’... but looking back he was right. Everyone I graduated with did struggle but we were all better for it. The conditions required us to get creative with how we proceeded, and in my case that rang true. By graduation I already had plans in place to move to NYC for an internship under Cristin Tierney at her gallery. Little did I know, she had been in touch with Gordon McCray from the business school (and leader of the Managements in Visual Arts course). They had earmarked me as a candidate for the inaugural position of gallery manager at START Gallery, which was still a rather nebulous concept at the time. When they approached me it was perfect timing, and after a rigorous interview process I was offered the position. The basic agreement was, I could go up to New York to work for Cristin but I had to come back to do START. I couldn’t have anticipated how great the experience was going to be… it was essentially myself and Paul Bright working with the Provost Office and a few others to bring START to life. Through the process I learned enormous amounts about what it’s like to run a gallery; it laid foundations for my understanding of professional organizations in the art world.

Of course, after START I wanted to get back up to New York- I had caught the bug while interning for Cristin. And speaking of Cristin, she is the biggest mentor in my life- we stayed in close touch after my internship, and she would frequently send me job postings and inform me of conversations she had with people looking for help. The pickings were still slim at this point… it was the Fall of 2010 and people were still trying to get out of the recession.

One day Cristin sent an email, saying to send my resume straight away to Eykyn Maclean, a gallery which was hiring help for a museum-quality exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s oeuvre. This wasn’t just sculpture, but works on paper, paintings, writings… and this opportunity got me back to New York, but talk about baptism by fire. Throughout my time with Eykyn Maclean, there were plenty of surreal and amazing experiences, and I worked Wall Street hours; but I enjoyed every minute there.

One weekend in April 2012 I went down to DC for a visit with Wake friends, where I met the man I’m about to marry. I moved to Washington in 2013 and found a job with a 19th-Century gallery, where I spent a short spell. I was networking a lot in the DC art scene, and was part of The Philips Collection Contemporaries Steering Committee, through which I made a friend who is my now-predecessor. She was leaving for St. Louis and recommended that I apply for her job at Hemphill. I jumped into the opportunity, and here I am three years later- very happy and wanting to stay for as long as I can.
 

DL: Did you consider a graduate degree after Wake?

CB: I’ve always considered going to grad school; I love the scholarly aspect of working with secondary market objects. I love nothing more than sitting in archives all day, going through catalogues raisonne and figuring out where works fit within an artist’s oeuvre. So while I’m happy where I am now, I would certainly consider grad school if it gelled into the right timing and allowed me to continue work.

I think it should be said, that grad school shouldn’t be a prerequisite for success. It can be good for some people but it’s certainly not for everyone.. People can succeed without it.
 

DL: Did your time at Wake have a big impact on your career path?

CB:  I did have a sorority sister who was working at Gagosian… I remember thinking, ‘I want to do what she’s doing,’ so I asked her exactly how I could. She gave me some great advice, essentially laid out key guidelines for things I needed to do, in order to work in the art world. Two things she said were vital- taking the Management in Visual Arts course and to read any and everything I could about what was  going on in the art world. ArtNews, Art Forum, you name it- I was constantly reading on the latest, and the pace of change was rapid. But employers in the art world expect you to be aware of everything that’s going on.

 

DL: Do you think Wake’s art department prepared you for life after graduation?

CB:  I really think without the Management in Visual Arts class I would’ve been totally adrift in terms of having the tools to break into the art world, which can be a tough nut to crack. The best advice I got at the time was, be willing to work for free. Basically you have to understand, nobody is going to be making six figures right off the bat. But all Art History and Studio students should have to take an art marketing course. There’s an academic bias not to commoditize artwork, but artists can’t subsist without being able to do this, and galleries are so essential to the overall health of the market. Wake art students would benefit massively from developing a business sensibility.
 

DL:  What’s the hardest part about breaking into your field?

CB: Realizing that you’re not entitled to success. I think being hard working, having a good attitude and being accountable is the perfect recipe for success in any field. But those three attributes are increasingly rare in the art world, and a person who comes into this ready to work is going to be an asset to any company, gallery, or museum they end up with. Networking has helped me massively with breaking into my field as well. Keeping up good relationships and not being a jerk frankly, are very important.
 

DL: How do you like living and working in DC? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move there?

CB: I would say- if you want to work in art world in DC, you should be focused on working institutionally or with a non-profit. That’s not to say you can’t be successful  in a commercial gallery here, but for all aspiring gallerists, I’d say please move here immediately and open your gallery. We need healthy competition and more variety in our art scene.

I’m also a huge advocate of working whilst going to grad school, which will help you get a job in a museum especially if you’re curating. Grad degrees aren’t necessary for the development side of things, so one could obtain a grad degree for curating while still working in development at a museum.
 

DL:  What has surprised you the most about the art scene in DC?

CB: The number of hugely talented artists who live and work in the area… not all great artists are in Brooklyn. The artists here are just as inventive and powerful, but don’t get nearly the same credit as those up in New York. There is a big opportunity to champion the local artists here.. So yet again- gallerists, come to DC and open your gallery!
 

DL: What’s the best piece of advice you can leave our readers with?

CB:  Have a positive attitude.