This week we are excited to share our newest Frank Talk with Harriet Mathias! Harriet is an Art History graduate, luxury industry Press & PR professional, and the founder of Modern Muse Art. After higher education, Harriet proceeded to work in Press & PR, building and executing communication strategies for nearly a decade at fashion, jewelry, art & lifestyle institutions such as Prada, Cartier and contemporary artists and gallery spaces. Please enjoy reading Harriet’s Frank Talk below!
What was your first job in the Arts?
Working in the Press Office at Prada.
Many say that Fashion and Art are not within the same artistic realm however, when working in the fashion industry there are so many underlying artistic influences, especially under the house of PRADA where art is engrained in their DNA.
It was at Prada, working within the Press Officer, where I learnt about the icon that is Ms. Prada, her active part of shaping culture, and her dedication to the arts, feminism and equality, I believe, was my first job in the arts.
The first collection I worked on was Prada’s Spring Summer 14 which epitomized this. Ms. Prada championed six artists – four muralists (Miles ’El Mac’ Gregor, Gabriel Specter, Mesa, and Stinkfish) plus two illustrators (Jeanne Detallante and Pierre Mornet), who echoed the political art by the likes of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, that defined an era Muccia was inspired by for her runway collection. As a result, Muccia commissioned and insisted on painted murals to be the backdrop of her stage, fostering an artistic energy, that for me made the show. Images from the murals were repeated on clothes in classic sportswear silhouettes, proving that without the art, there wouldn’t have been a ready-to-wear collection.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
Be polite, be honest. You never know whose path you will cross again in the future, so it’s better just to be kind to all, as karma can be a b****.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I walked into the Met Museum in New York during the Spring of 2007, where I had completed an assignment designing a fashion collection influenced by Edgar Degas and I used the Little Dancer
Aged Fourteen as my reference point. I walked into the gallery and for the first time I saw this beautiful ballet student in the flesh, and I was so moved by her honesty and realism that my eyes filled with tears. I knew then that art was something that would be a part of me and what I wanted to pursue.
However, it took me a while for it to become my career. From this moment in 2007 art became part of my livelihood; I started collecting art, traveled through Italy learning about the foundations of Art History, took a degree in History of Art at Manchester University and throughout followed the industry, building my collection and contacts over the decade and eventually working at companies which I believed held art within the core of their values, such as Prada and Cartier.
I then decided to make the jump, as so many people were asking me for advice. At the end of 2018 that I decided I could share my knowledge and passion and create a business to encourage others to see that we are living in a golden age of Art and Artists.
What do you do now?
I search for and work with unique and talented emerging artists, and connect them to budding collectors, supported by an online platform which provides dynamic content about the artists and the industry.
Where are you from?
Originally from Oxfordshire, but now living in London, Notting Hill
What is the arts community like there?
The Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has been an artistic hotspot for over 200 years. The area has housed, nurtured and inspired icons from, JMW Turner to photographers such as the late Terry O’Niel. It is a borough which is home to the urban bohemia of Portabello Road street art and the modern elegance of the Design Museum – an art-enthusiasts paradise. I’m incredibly lucky to have this on my doorstep.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
I think it’s more the people who surrounded me, rather than my surroundings. My Father for instance is a very inspiring character, who has always said that anything is possible, and with his mantra of “Darling, you may as well ask – the worst someone can say is No!” I believe that he has shaped the curiosity and courage in me to do what I am doing today.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Read and form your own opinion.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Meeting so many wonderful and inspiring artists and industry leaders, which has resulted in setting up Modern Muse Art.
What has been a challenge for you?
From working on a floor of filled with professionals to working singularly has been a challenge. I have had to be strong in keeping motivated and positive, and I’m sure everyone can relate as we are always our worst critic and it’s generally easier to be in your comfort zone. I try and remember every day why I made the jump from corporate to “entrepreneur” – At a young age I learnt in Latin, Veni, vidi, vici; “I came; I saw; I conquered” a phrase which I love and can be applied to almost any scenario in life.
What is something you do every day at work?
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Well, working within Fashion industry which requires a lot of people management…. (especially with Celebrity and VIP) I will let the reader create their own weird scenario (those hilarious “Devil Wear’s Prada” stories do actually happen!)
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
Willingness to learn and adaptability, I like people who are open minding regardless of their hierarchy or position. You never know who will take you under their wing or need your help – it’s in these moments where your life can change!
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Knowledge and that je ne sais quoi – I love finding that quirk in someone and it’s great when people expose this from the get go.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?
Radiate positive energy and think outside the box, don’t be afraid to speak up and share that crazy idea!
What are things you can do proactively boost your CV?
Think about the language and vocabulary you use, ask for advice and share with people who you trust and with those who are in likeminded industries – and most importantly share with those who you think can really help. Everyone loves to be asked for help!
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
Be brave, be positive and back yourself. Don’t blab your way through, read as much as you can and learn from your mistakes (try not to make the same mistake twice! people can be very unforgiving)
In your experience, what are things to do and things to avoid during an interview?
Do ask questions! – this shows initiative.
Don’t answer the question before the interviewer has finished asking – listen and provide thoughtful and relevant answers.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
Only Human: Photographs by Martin Parr, National Portrait Gallery. I thought that this was a really refreshing and humorous exhibition. I loved how the Curator Phillip Prodger and the National Portrait Gallery’s design team (sponsored by Gucci so there is that twist in the aesthetic) worked with Parr to bring this show to life – from the color of the walls to the bunting and the classic Cafe.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Yikes, that’s really hard!
Andreas Gursky, Édouard Manet, Joaquín Sorolla, Tanya Ling, Alex Prager.