Sarah Stein-Sapir is a New York art advisor specializing in contemporary art. Her clients are both private and corporate with among others no less than Central Park Tower, the world’s tallest residential building. She shared about her path from working in art galleries, to auction houses and private dealers which led her to open her company Stein-Sapir Art.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I knew I wanted to work in the arts since I was a teenager. I grew up surrounded by art; my dad was a collector and I grew up going to museums… it was in my blood. I knew I wanted to study art history and be in New York so I applied to Columbia University – they have a great program and this way I could be close to some of the best museums in the world. Thankfully, I was accepted.
You started to work at Gagosian Gallery, can you tell us about that experience?
I remember as an undergrad walking through Chelsea with a friend and passing by Gagosian’s flagship on 24th street. He told me it was a really well known gallery so when I went home, I looked into it and reached out to them saying I wanted to intern for them. I ended up interning there for 4 years during college and throughout my Master’s at Sotheby’s. While writing my thesis, I was offered a job. I was lucky to be studying art history and contemporary art while learning about the business at the same time.
What made you start your own business?
It really happened organically. After working for a gallery, I worked for an auction house and then a private dealer. I was exposed to different facets of the artworld as I moved towards the private sector. I was lucky to work for some of the most important private dealers in the world and learned a lot from them. At one point, the dealer I was working for was based in London and my afternoons opened up. He supported me developing my own clients during this time, something for which I am very grateful. That was over ten years ago and has continued to evolve and grow over the years.
Can you tell us about your role as an art advisor?
Responsibilities range from sourcing specific works, to collection management, to helping a client understand what art they love and want to live with. Finding the right piece is a process and my ultimate goal is to educate my clients, help them navigate the art world and acquire the best examples works by the artists they love.
Who are your clients?
My clients range from new collectors just starting their collection, to established collectors looking for very specific blue chip art to developers and interior designers. My business is based on privacy and discretion so I typically can’t discuss it. In other cases, projects like Central Park Tower are very well known. It’s been really incredible to see it go from an idea and architectural plans to seeing it rise above the New York skyline as the tallest residential building in the world.
How do you source the artworks?
I typically work with a range of galleries. For example when I work with a client who’s a new collector, I get a sense of what they want and then I put together a selection of works of artists that I respond to, and it’s a way to support the programming of galleries that I care about.
On major real estate projects, it often necessitates commissioning works. In this case, another part of my job becomes to liaise between the artist, the gallery and the client. The challenge here is to get the client what they want without giving too much direction to the artist.
What do you like the most about your work?
Quite a few things! I love that every day is different, it keeps it interesting. I love that I get to look at and engage with beautiful, interesting things throughout the day. I find pleasure helping people discover works that they love and curate the spaces around them. Most of all, I get to work with a range of intelligent, creative, curious people – friends, clients, artists, curators, specialists, salespeople etc.
Do you think the online access of art has changed things for your collectors? What about NFTs?
For the people I work with, online has helped because collectors can look at a lot of art at once but they don’t typically transact online. As for NFTs, my collectors are more interested in art that they can live with, less so in speculation and investment. That being said, they’re definitely becoming part of the conversation. It’s a whole different world with a lot of potential that I look forward to learning more about.
What are the fairs that you enjoy the most?
If I had to pick one, I would say Frieze London. The quality of the fair is never disappointing, the experience itself isn’t as hectic as other fairs and the concurrent gallery and museum exhibitions are always excellent. I’m going to Frieze LA this month for the first time, looking forward to being there.