This week we sit down with David Simantov, Senior Account Coordinator at Blue Medium. David found his job at Blue Medium through Art Frankly! David began his career in art in 2013 at the University at Buffalo. While there he interned at its art galleries and simultaneously assisted a local performance artist with developing a local residency program and produce art happenings. After a foray into the culinary world he resumed his art career in 2016 as a gallery assistant at Lenon, Weinberg in New York. In 2018 David joined the Blue Medium team where he has worked in a range of clients including galleries, fairs, biennials, and professional services. He holds a BA from the University at Buffalo and is finalizing a certificate in Digital Marketing from New York University. Please enjoy David’s Frank Talk below!
What was your first job in the Arts?
In college I was a front desk attendant at the University at Buffalo Anderson Gallery as well as an artist assistant to multimedia and performance artist Tina Dillman.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
How to talk about art.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
There were a few instances that led me down this path. My dad was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. The decorative robes his family brought with them had me interested in visual aesthetics from a very young age. Growing up three blocks away from the Museum of Natural History and across the park from the Met and Guggenheim didn’t hurt. Drinking free wine at Chelsea openings on Thursday while I was in high school (I know, I know) was my first taste of the more contemporary art world. My Art History 101 professor in college opened his first lecture of the year by pointing out the first thing Nazis did when they took over a nation was to destroy the local art and/or cultural institutions. It was always apparent to me that art was an intrinsic part of society and understanding the context of a body of work, a movement or an epoch was of utmost importance when trying to understand literally anything else.
What do you do now?
I am a Senior Account Coordinator at Blue Medium, assisting with the communications efforts of various arts organizations, galleries, firms, and fairs.
Where are you from?
Born and raised New Yorker!
What is the arts community like there?
An important epicenter as we know, but as I branch out more through national and international travel, I’ve learned how limited it can be too.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
I mentioned earlier that I was once one of those high school kids attending Thursday openings in Chelsea for the free wine. Now as a former Chelsea gallery assistant of course I understand the nuisance I was a part of, but this is truly where I decided I wanted to be surrounded by art all the time, and when I understood the importance of making art as accessible as possible.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Although there are plenty of textbooks, articles and memoirs about making, showing and selling art, there is no limit to what you can learn by being present in the art world. Continuing to learn while expanding your own definition of the art world is imperative.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
During my first year at a Chelsea gallery I was sent to the Dallas Art Fair, tasked with packing, installing, manning and deinstalling the booth all by myself. It was a tumultuous time for the gallery and as the lowest ranking employee working my first art fair, they just hoped to maintain a presence there. I managed to sell, which I don’t think any parties involved expected at that time. Hanging the booth alone felt like an accomplishment as well. More currently, any article I am able to place for a client feels like an accomplishment. Of course, it is my job, but making art accessible is important to me, so any time I am able to get more eyes on a work or an institution as a whole feel like a small victory.
What has been a challenge for you?
I’ve found that being objective in the art world has been difficult. Sure – you learn more and are able to make more educated assessments, but sometimes you become biased to the people you have met and enjoying working with. Human nature I guess.
What is something you do every day at work?
Read! As an art PR professional, it is essential that I know who is writing about art, what art they are writing about, and what publication they are publishing in. I start every morning at work with an hour of reading any recent art criticism and news.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Too many to choose from. The art world is weird and perhaps that’s why I like it. If you are going to work in it you have to understand that your job description is just a frame of reference and you need to be open to an array of disparate tasks and experiences.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
A good employee will be dedicated to the task at hand. They make sure they do the best work they possibly can, not just because someone told them to, but because it is important to them to give something there all. A good employee will continue to have questions, and when they make mistakes, which they do, they make sure to learn from them. A good boss is a leader with empathy. They are creative thinkers, clear with their assignments and expectations, and aware of the context behind individual situations. A sense of humor could be important for both sides as well.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Their understanding of a field and willingness to learn more.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?
Going the extra mile may be a somewhat played-out message but it will always be important. I do believe that anyone could do almost any job. It is that extra step, no matter the size, that can make you stand out.
What are things you can do proactively boost your CV?
Volunteer when you can, become involved in an organization you believe in, and talk to everyone – you never know who they might know.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
You don’t know anything! And if you can find an employer willing to give you the space to learn and grow you will be in that much better of a situation to succeed. Also, speak to everyone you can and don’t feel embarrassed. Everyone has to start somewhere and no one knows everything.
In your experience, what are things to do and things to avoid during an interview?
Be aware of and honest with your own strengths and weaknesses. Make sure to have questions prepared before the interview. Avoid being overly negative about any previous job or employer.
Any other anecdotes about your experience in the art world that you would like to share?
Not currently. But I would like to point out that some of my favorite experiences in the art world have come from traveling to arts communities in other states, countries and continents.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
When the MoMA reopened last year, I saw Sur Moderno – Journeys of Abstraction. It was a fantastic dive into mid-century Latin American abstract art.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Philip Guston, Kimou Meyer, Lygia Pape