Alexandra Freedman’s career didn’t start in the art advisory sector, but the former Christie’s auction coordinator set out to help people find quality artwork while supporting the work of artists.
Freedman founded her company Electra Projects in 2018 as a response to a certain group of people who she observed to be curious about collecting art but did not know where to begin or how to distinguish works of merit from white noise. In order to take out the guessing game about what to place on walls, Freedman offers her network and services, integrating arts education and awareness of emerging talent to her clients.
We spoke with Freedman about how the pandemic affected her business, her favorite contemporary female-identifying artists, and how she embeds her Latin American heritage into her work.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an art advisor as opposed to being a gallerist?
Alexandra Freedman: Being an art advisor gives you independence. There are no boundaries or expectations relating to creative choice and there’s beauty in taking time to educate and create high-touch experiences for my collector clients. Furthermore, the advisor role lends the opportunity to help artists establish a market by placing them in collections. Similar to a gallery, an advisor acts as an agent in promoting why certain artists merit attention, yet unlike a gallery, an advisor functions as an extension of the buyer. We provide reciprocal services by supporting gallery programming by facilitating sales, but also meeting our clients’ collecting and design needs. These roles accrue to an artist’s ascendancy, so there is a mutual responsibility in our work.
How has the pandemic affected your work? What are some ways your practice has adapted to the current situation?
Alexandra Freedman: Yes, the pandemic has affected my business, for better and for worse. Now that we are all spending more time at home, we are motivated to make our homes feel complete which includes placing artwork on the walls. This is the time to bring art into the home. Art gives us inspiration and hope.
My practice has shifted to servicing my clients almost exclusively online – over email, text, facetime, and Zoom – this is not a drastic shift, as I am a firm believer that art should be accessible to everyone and the internet allows that; however, for new collectors, it can be challenging to buy art online. Trust and teamwork between the advisor and client are essential.
The hardest part has been the postponement of art fairs and gallery openings. I miss the energy, sense of discovery, and excitement.
Being an art advisor gives you independence. There are no boundaries or expectations relating to creative choice and there’s beauty in taking time to educate and create high-touch experiences for my collector clients.
You are a member of the Female Design Council. Could you tell us more about this organization and some recent work you have done with them?
Alexandra Freedman: When I went independent and launched Electra Projects in 2018, it was a difficult transition from a traditional workplace, where I was surrounded by like-minded peers. A fellow art world colleague suggested I join the Female Design Council, a membership-based, leadership organization open to all womxn in the design industry. After attending a meet-and-greet event, I recognized the value in their network of entrepreneurs and professionals who work across disciplines relating to design in which there is a unique synergy between the scope of my advisory practice and those of the designers, especially interior designers with whom I seek to collaborate.
Female Design Council produces insightful experiences and events which, unfortunately, have been curtailed by the pandemic this year. They’ve gracefully transitioned to a digital platform and are offering their members much-needed support and guidance during this trying time. Last fall, I attended an event at R & Company, the iconic art and design gallery in Tribeca, hosted by the gallery’s archivist, an FDC member. We had a behind-the-scenes tour of their archive library which was absolutely fascinating and unique. It was truly remarkable to take a step back and just listen to the chatter between members, and hear ideas, whether creative, personal, or business-oriented, buzzing between womxn.
There’s a beautiful connection between Latin America and Modern Art. … There was a confluence of international styles that served as a catalyst for creation in art, design, and architecture. We can refer to the significant and influential bodies of work by artists such as Jesus Rafael Soto, Wifredo Lam, Ana Mendieta, and Lygia Clark.
How has your Latin American background and education/experience with Modern Art influenced how you cultivate interests with your clients?
Alexandra Freedman: My mother is Peruvian and my father is American, so I benefited from a hybrid perspective that was both American, by definition, and global. I was born in the States and grew up outside Philadelphia, so while I appreciated my Latin American roots, I also recognize that I am somewhat removed from that heritage and believe I have a responsibility to educate myself from both perspectives.
Spending time in Peru has given me the opportunity to explore and understand the Latin American art world, its collecting culture, and its emerging art scene. I really enjoy working with contemporary Latin-American focused galleries, stateside, and love including Latin American artists in my proposals. My clients have diverse, global backgrounds and are curious about integrating the culture and traditions into their collection.
There’s a beautiful connection between Latin America and Modern Art. The movement swept across Latin America, including the Caribbean, when artists and artisans from the region, became increasingly global, traveling to Europe, North America, and Africa. There was a confluence of international styles that served as a catalyst for creation in art, design, and architecture. We can refer to the significant and influential bodies of work by artists such as Jesus Rafael Soto, Wifredo Lam, Ana Mendieta, and Lygia Clark.
While my eyes are constantly looking for, and learning about, emerging talent, and I love supporting young artists, I often return to looking at and reflecting on Modern Art and the history, and related movements, surrounding the time period. Modern Art is timeless and it can function as a tool to help us better understand our past. From a collecting standpoint, Modern Art is more accessible than you think and I believe it provides a wonderful foundation for any collection.
Now, more than ever, it’s not only important to me, as an art advisor, to suggest a variety of artists with diverse backgrounds and messages to my clients, it’s truly my responsibility.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary female-identifying artists right now and why?
Alexandra Freedman: I recently saw Jo Baer’s “The Risen / Originals” exhibition at Pace Gallery and was really moved by her evolution. Here’s a woman who made her name as a Minimalist artist in the 60s–70s, a time when it was challenging for female artists to be accepted and recognized in what was a male-dominated industry. One of her early series of paintings, now entitled “The Risen”, was created, documented, and subsequently destroyed. There was a radical shift in her life and style: she left the United States and turned to creating figurative work, a complete departure from minimalism, the style she was most associated with. For years, Baer created image-based art, much of it is grounded in mythical iconography, and she continues to do so. It was only until 2019, at 90 years old, that she revisited abstraction and felt inspired to reconstruct the paintings from “The Risen” series.
I’m also swooning over works by Tahnee Lonsdale, Gahee Park, Julie Curtiss, Hilary Pecis, Jesse Mockrin, Amanda Baldwin, Hiejin Yoo … the list goes on.
How does Electra Projects provide equitable opportunities for people of color and womxn?
Alexandra Freedman: Now, more than ever, it’s not only important to me, as an art advisor, to suggest a variety of artists with diverse backgrounds and messages to my clients, it’s truly my responsibility. I aim to include more black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, female, LGBTQ artists in my marketing initiatives–like my newsletter or on my Instagram–in addition to acquisition proposals to my clients.
Over the past few months, there has been a growing interest among my clients to learn more about black artists and how they can support artists of color. Even if these clients don’t end up purchasing, I strive to educate and raise awareness, as promoting an inclusive narrative is as important as supporting their respective careers. I’ve worked to develop a thoughtful list of black-owned galleries, emerging and contemporary artists of color, etc. I want to be a useful resource of information but also recognize that the work is only just beginning. The onus is on me to keep raising the bar, learning as much as I can from a connoisseurial standpoint about who is creating meaningful art today, and also recognizing where my own blind spots may exist in order to build a more expansive understanding of the art world today.